The British Army should stop recruiting 16-year-olds

The army’s venerable tradition no longer makes financial sense, argue Rachel Taylor and David Gee

The ethical case for raising the armed forces’ recruitment age to 18 is well established, but less well known is an equally compelling practical reason for change: ever more 16 and 17-year-olds are opting to stay in school. At the same time, the dwindling number of minors that the army does manage to attract are becoming increasingly expensive to train and difficult to retain.

Most countries have realized that targeting 16-year-olds for recruitment is not an effective strategy for modern armed forces. Fewer than 20 other states in the world recruit at this age, none of them a major military power. The RAF and navy have effectively moved on. Of the 2,000 or so new recruits aged under 18 last year, more than four-fifths joined the army, particularly the infantry. The British Army is now the only institution doggedly committed to the youngest recruitment age in Europe.

When challenged on the ethics of enlisting recruits too young to play Call of Duty, the MoD has insisted that the army needs them to avoid manning shortfalls, but in fact the evidence points the other way. More than a third of the youngest recruits drop out of training; of the 1,820 minors who joined the army last year, only 1,167 would be expected to join the trained strength, given the elevated drop-out rate for the age group.… Read more

Military-style academies?

The Labour Party and the National Union of Teachers oppose the Conservatives’ plans to make all schools academies.

In 2014, ForcesWatch published a briefing outlining the extent to which the Coalition Government’s hopes to create ‘military’ academies and free schools had been realised. We revealed that numerous academies were adopting elements of the Government’s ‘Military Ethos in Schools programme’.

Since 2014, military influence in academies has grown significantly, and more information has come to light. For example, at least five academies/academy chains (including England’s largest academies chain, the Academies Enterprise Trust) have signed an ‘Armed Forces Corporate Covenant’. In the Covenants, the academies state that ‘the whole nation has a moral obligation’ to members of the armed forces’, and pledge to: promote ‘the fact that we are an armed forces-friendly organisation’; set up Cadet Forces (or support local Cadet Forces); make special allowances for members of staff in the Reserves; ‘actively participate in Armed Forces Day’; and in one case, ‘strengthening our relationships with our sponsoring regiment, the Coldstream Guards’.

The NUT has opposed military recruitment in schools since 2008, and has also – along with the teaching unions Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), NASUWT, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), and Labour – criticised aspects of the Military Ethos in Schools programme.Read more