£2m ‘character education’ grant goes to military-style projects

A third of a £6 million funding pot aimed at building character in school pupils will be targeted at military-style projects, prompting criticism from campaigners.

The government has said that up to £2 million of its character education grant funding will this year pay for projects that have a “military ethos approach to develop character”.

According to the Forces Watch campaign group, the latest announcement takes the total amount spent or earmarked by the government for projects aimed at instilling a military ethos in schools since 2012 to almost £90 million.

Applications for this year have just closed, with schools having to wait until September to find out if they have been successful in their bids for between £50,000 and £750,000. The fund is separate to the department’s annual character education awards.

Forces Watch, which scrutinises army recruitment practices, said the grant allocation was the latest in a series of big pay-outs related to military-style education, citing the £10 million Troops to Teachers recruitment scheme and £14 million already spent on the cadet expansion scheme, which received another £50 million last year.

Emma Sangster, co-ordinator of the organisation, questioned the logic of the Department for Education’s approach when last year’s character awards had demonstrated a “wealth of other approaches”.… Read more

Where did Osborne’s £50m school cadet forces grant go?

The impact of a £50 million grant to boost the number of school cadet forces cannot be scrutinised because the government will not release details – although there are few signs of the 100 units a year needed to meet the ambitious target.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) said, despite not being able to tell Schools Week how many schools signed up for cadet units in the past year, it still was “on track” to meet its target of 500 in state schools by 2020.

In his budget last summer, chancellor George Osborne said £50 million – raised through fines levied on banks – would increase military programmes in schools five-fold through the Cadet Expansion Programme (CEP). This time last year, there were units in just 100 schools.

However, this week the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) would not provide figures for the number of units in state schools set up in the past 12 months.

Its website says there are 300 units in schools, but this includes independent schools, which make up the vast majority of units. This time last year, the figure on the website was 275.

Figures released by the MOD in April do show, however, there has been a decrease in the number of cadets overall.… Read more

Government must take urgent action over Deepcut recommendations

With the new inquest verdict into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut, ForcesWatch is calling on Ministers to implement important recommendations for young recruits made in 2005.

Cheryl James, who was 18, was found dead with a bullet wound in 1995 at the Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, Surrey. She was one of four young recruits to die in similar circumstances at the army barracks between 1995 and 2002.

All four were undertaking armed guard duty when they died and two were under the age of 18.

An initial inquest into the death of Private James recorded an open verdict. As the original investigation and inquest were judged to be highly inadequate, a second inquest was ordered by the High Court, and took place between February and April this year in Woking, after many years of campaigning by the family (2).

Coroner Brian Barker QC, will give his conclusions on Friday 3 June (3).

A recent report by ForcesWatch highlights how, 10 years after Parliament’s Defence Committee published its Duty of Care report, a number of its crucial recommendations have not been implemented by the Ministry of Defence (4) (5).

Unimplemented recommendations include:

  • A independent review of the age of recruitment, examining the potential of raising it to 18 in all three services.
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MoD increases targeting of 16-year-olds show figures released today

Figures show that more 16 year olds were recruited in the last year than 17 year olds as the government admits that is intends to increase the number of children it recruits into the armed forces.

  • Recruitment of minors continues to fall, but 16 year olds now outnumber 17 year old recruits
  • More than one in five Army recruits too young to be deployed

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released figures today showing that 1,790 minors were enlisted into the Army in the financial year to March 2016, accounting for 22 per cent (22.2%) of the army’s total enlisted intake for the same period (8,020 recruits).[1]

These figures are released in the same week as a coalition of children’s organisations from across the UK published a joint letter to the MoD urging it to raise the enlistment age,[2] and just two days after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child challenged the UK government over its ongoing recruitment of children.[3]

Annual personnel figures published by the MoD today show that in the financial year to March 2016, minors accounted for 22 per cent (22.2%) of new recruits enlisted into the army, falling from 24 per cent (23.8%) in the previous year.

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