Veterans bring ‘military ethos’ to schools

Growing number of organisations employ ex-servicemen and women to work in schools helping children develop ‘character’.

The pupils of year five at St Aloysius Catholic primary in Roby, Liverpool stand shoulder to shoulder, listening closely as the man in combat trousers and army boots outlines the task ahead.

Dressed in their blue PE shorts and white tops, they stand tall as the instructor speaks. First they have to imagine they are stranded in a desert and work out what they need to survive.

The man in charge of operations, Wayne Barker, used to be a corporal in the Royal Signals, serving 10 years as a communications expert and physical training instructor, putting regiments of 450 soldiers through their paces. He has done tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, and used to live in Germany.

Now, for more than a year, he has been spending three days a week at St Aloysius, bringing the “military ethos” to the school hall and classrooms, instilling “character” in little girls with intricate plaits, and boys with eczema scabs behind their knees.

Barker, 29, is employed by Commando Joe’s, one of a small but growing number of organisations that employ mainly ex-servicemen and women to work in schools with the aim of helping children develop “character” and “resilience”.… Read more

Cardiff event on ‘Red Hand Day’ 2015: ‘Ban schoolyard recruitment’

On Red Hand Day (the annual international day of campaigning against the use of child soldiers), 12 February, 2015, a well-attended event at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace called for an end to military presence and influence in schools and colleges in Wales. Organised by Cardiff United Nations Association, and featuring speakers from ForcesWatch and Fellowship of Reconciliation Wales, the event explored the nature of armed forces visits to schools and colleges in Wales, as well as the military’s ‘engagement’ with young people in Wales more broadly (hearing young people’s perspectives by watching the short film ‘Engage: the military and young people‘), and then looking at ways in which this has and can be challenged, before opening the floor to questions and discussion.

Some of the event was filmed by Made in Cardiff TV. Click here to watch their short video piece. Our Education Campaign worker Owen also gave a short interview to Cardiff News Plus: click here to listen to it, or here for the write-up of the interview. For more information on the event, go to the Facebook page here.
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Military ethos – where’s the evidence?

Jon Boagey, operations director [at the National Youth Agency], asks why military ethos doesn’t seem to need evidence to get government funding.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced in December a further £4.8m funding to continue support for military-style character building in schools.   This follows grants of £8.2m between 2012-14 so former armed service personel can help young people do better at school and develop their character, including values such as self-confidence, respect and leadership.

I’ve got nothing against ex-forces staff working with young people.  Looking at the lineup of funded organisations, which include Commander Joe’s and the Prince’s Trust, all of them run programmes that provide adult role models, extra-curricular activities, personal organisation, structure and support for at risk young people.  This isn’t a million miles from youth work.  And it’s not square bashing either.  It is what they call Military Ethos Alternative Provision.

What rankles is a deeper frustration about how this approach to learning is recognised and valued.

Whilst the DfE’s press release in December gave us lots of impressive performance percentages and personal testimonies, the project evaluation made it very clear that the evidence base was shaky.  ‘In undertaking this review the research team identified a range of issues which, together, undermine the potential for impacts to be attributed to the Military Ethos programme which would stand up to external scrutiny,’ it said.… Read more

Army launches ‘rebranding’ and recruitment campaigns

The Army is launching a publicity campaign to keep its work in the public eye, following the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.

The “Normal Day” campaign aims to explain to the public the roles the Army fulfils around the world.

It has been launched alongside a recruitment drive, aimed at attracting regulars and reserves. Both campaigns will cost a total of £7m.

Last year the Army only recruited 20 fully-trained reserves.

In its recruiting year 2013/14 it also missed its target for regulars – 6,198 recruits joined the Army, against a target of 9,382.

The rebranding campaign comes after a survey suggested 20% of Britons believe the Army is less relevant now than ever before.

This figure rises to 25% among the Army’s core recruitment audience, of those aged between 18 and 34.

When asked what ought to be the Army’s current priority, conflict came top with 34%, but when asked what should be a key task only 11% chose humanitarian aid and only 13% suggested it should be disaster relief.

The research was carried out by market research firm OnePoll between 12 and 19 December 2014, among 3,000 adults.

The “Normal Day” campaign will include three documentaries showing real-life examples of the impact that individual Army personnel have made to people’s lives in the UK, Kosovo and the Philippines.… Read more

Minister: cut teenage pregnancies with army cadets

Army cadet units could help cut the rate of teenage pregnancies, an education minister has said.

Lord Nash said teenage girls from single-parent families who had “never experienced the love of a man” could be deterred from forming “unsuitable relationships” if they enrolled in a cadet unit.

David Cameron, who attended the Combined Cadet Force at Eton, has set a target of creating 100 new units in state schools by September in order to build “character, grit and determination” in teenagers, thereby improving their exam results.

Some 65 new units have been approved since 2010, with another 54 set to open over the next nine months.

They are funded in part by fines levied on major banks from the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

Lord Nash, a Conservative peer, said children become troubled because they lack a basic routine at home, with no fixed meal times, bed times or expectations to complete homework.

He told the Lords: “It is young people in schools in the most disadvantaged communities who most need greater strength of character to cope with the challenge they face to succeed in life. Contrast the organisation, routine, structure and discipline which comes with a service life with the chaotic home lives that sadly so many of our children and young people experience today, with no structure, routine, and a background that is literally scatty,” he said…

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UK soldiers of 16 ‘too young’

The children’s commissioner for England has accused the armed forces of breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by recruiting soldiers from the age of 16.

In an interview with The Sunday Times to mark the imminent end of her five-year term, Maggie Atkinson said: “You are too young to join the armed forces at 16. The convention says you shouldn’t be a child soldier . . . If you were serious about the convention, you would not expect them to join the armed services until they are 18.”… Read more

More questions raised about the ‘Military Ethos in Schools’ programme

The Department for Education has committed a further £3.5m to fund organisations building ‘character’ among school students, and £1m for research to find the most effective ways that character can be taught in schools. This supports the notion that even if ‘military ethos in schools schemes’ (such as Challenger Troop, featured in this video) are improving discipline and attainment (the evidence is inadequate), other, non-military approaches with disadvantaged students can have the same results without the fear of other agendas being at play. But with £4.8m spent on ‘alternative provision with a military ethos’, announced in a press statement full of ‘character’ rhetoric, the focus seems to be on the military approaches.

Criticism of the Military Ethos in Schools programme is made well in two letters to The Telegraph. The first states: “Children develop according to a huge variety of influences, such as religious groups, peers, parents, teachers, youth clubs and sporting activities…Sending in the Army to deal with entrenched, structural disadvantages is at best a token gimmick and at worst an insult to Army veterans, who are themselves being neglected by the Government after having served their country.” The second, from a head teacher, states: “Students form a well-rounded character when their school’s ethos promotes charitable service, adventure, care for the environment, an international perspective, democracy and leadership…We do not need to buy in a soldier to achieve this; we just need to remember that education is not all about A*s.”… Read more