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

Troops to Teachers scheme misses target

A controversial scheme to turn former military personnel into teachers has trained just a sixth of its target number of veterans during the first two years, TES can reveal.

The Troops to Teachers initiative had 180 places for its first cohort, which completed training this month. But only 32 people have finished the course and become teachers.

The government-backed scheme had attracted controversy from the start because the plans to retrain former soldiers as teachers were sold as a way to bring a “military ethos” into struggling schools.

John Howson, director of TeachVac and an expert in teacher recruitment, said that he would be surprised if the scheme continued as a separate entity in the long term.

The figures have emerged after official reports criticised the organisation of the Troops to Teachers project.

The 2015 National College for Teaching and Leadership annual report says that there have been “challenges on recruitment” for the initiative.

A Department for Education spokesperson said Troops to Teachers was offering “talented service leavers a chance to inspire the next generation” by teaching leadership, teamwork and resilience.

The DfE has spent £4.3 million on the scheme so far, ‘the majority of which has been initial, one-off start-up costs.’… Read more

London’s first ‘Military Preparation College’ opens

London’s first Military Preparation College has been set up. It is the 18th Military Preparation College in the UK. The stated aim of Military Preparation Colleges is to maximise young people’s chances of passing armed forces selection and completing basic training.

ForcesWatch would ask – given the armed forces’ current recruitment difficulties, and the high levels of dropping out during training – whether Military Preparation Colleges are  in the best interests of the young people or the military, and whether the students are told in detail about the unique risks, legal restrictions and ethical dilemmas faced in the armed forces.… Read more

Army failing to attract young recruits

The Army has failed to attract enough young recruits in 9 of the last 10 years, and is looking to change this by emphasising the Army’s non-combat work. ForcesWatch are concerned this could lead to the further overlooking of the fact that combat is the raison d’être of the armed forces.

The BBC has reported that the Army has failed to attract enough young recruits in 9 out of the last 10 years. Major General Chris Tickell, the Army’s head of recruitment, said they need to “change their message…The generation we are trying to recruit has a different view on life than previous generations…We need to explain to the young men and women that the army is actually much more than just about combat.”

ForcesWatch would certainly not deny that the armed forces carry out important humanitarian work, a very recent example being the deployment of the Army to help those affected by Storm Desmond over the last few days. However, as the Army has previously said, ‘The fundamental and perhaps only difference of significance, between military service and other legitimate professions and occupations is that servicemen and women must be prepared, at any time…to participate in protracted and sometimes wholesale destruction and violence, to kill and be killed…’

Combat, such as the RAF’s current bombing in Syria, is the primary role of the armed forces.Read more

French soldiers condemned for having primary school pupils try out unloaded rifles

French soldiers have been criticised by the French MoD and local education authorities for having school pupils aged 10 and under try out unloaded assault rifles. There had been no similar outcry regarding similar armed forces activities in schools in the UK, which are driven by the UK MoD.

French soldiers have been criticised by the French Ministry of Defence and local education authorities for having pupils aged 10 and under try out unloaded assault rifles during a French Army visit to a primary school.

It is striking that there has been no similar outcry regarding similar armed forces activities in schools in the UK, which are driven by the UK MoD, rather than condemned by it.

At least some of the 11,000 armed forces to secondary schools that take place here each year involve students being shown military weaponry. A growing number of schools have a Cadet Force, which see students as young as 10 trained to use a rifle, and take part in mock battles. The annual Camo Day involves primary school pupils dressing up in armed forces uniform, being taught how to march, and being visited by members of the armed forces, who often come in armoured military vehicles.… Read more

Army officer recruitment drive in universities

A major new Army officer recruitment drive is targeting university students. Why is this acknowledged as ‘recruitment’, when similar activities in schools are not?

A major new Army officer recruitment drive, ‘With Heart, With Mind‘, is targeting university students.

The drive in universities is being widely reported in the media as ‘recruitment’, despite being little-different in its approach from many of the activites that the armed forces conduct in schools in colleges. Strikingly, in the last few years the armed forces and Ministry of Defence have repeatedly claimed – despite a large body of evidence to the contrary – that ‘the armed forces never visit schools for recruitment purposes’. As the current Army activities in universities show, armed forces ‘recruitment’ in the education is a process, rather than the specific act of students signing up then and there.

ForcesWatch are concerned about the sanitised, glamourised image of the Army that is apparently being put across to students.… Read more

Visits to schools by BAE Systems and the RAF

Evidence suggests that the BAE Systems-RAF team that visits primary and secondary schools ostensibly to encourage students to take an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, gives students a sanitised, glamourised image of both BAE and the RAF.

A video suggests that the arms company BAE Systems’ team that, in partnership with RAF Careers, visits primary and secondary schools, ostensibly to encourage students to take an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, gives students a sanitised, glamourised image of both employers during their visits to schools.

The repeated mentions on the team’s Twitter feed of ‘@RAF_Recruitment’ further undermine the military’s assertions that their ‘schools engagement’ is not ‘recruitment’.… Read more

Government Cadet Programme Cynically Targeting the Poor

“The Tory Government are preying on school children in some of our most deprived areas by setting up more and more military cadet units as a step to recruiting them into the armed forces.”

Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, a longstanding and vocal critic of the recruitment of children into the British army, is worried that young people may be pressured into joining such units and find themselves on a career path they never really wanted.

He has described as cynical the recent announcement that the Cadet Expansion Programme is to focus primarily on state schools in less affluent areas where, through no fault of their own, young people may not have the opportunities those in other areas enjoy as a right.

Britain continues to actively recruit 16-year-olds into its armed forces, and Alex has warned that measures in the Government’s recent Budget aimed at expanding this outdated practice risk not only further isolation on the international stage but betraying the best interests of our young people while misallocating resources in the process.

The UK is the only EU state that recruits from age 16, and is similarly alone amongst the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Yet, while such a policy has been criticised in parliamentary committees, as well as at the UN and by human rights groups, churches and unions alike, the Chancellor recently pledged £50 million to expand the Combined Cadet Force programme into 500 state schools.… Read more

New critical thinking resources from The Citizenship Foundation

The Citizenship Foundation’s new resources on ‘values in the classroom’ , which they have launched to aid teachers meet the new government expectation that they ‘promote ‘character’ and ‘British values”, focus on facilitating primary school students’ critical thinking skills, encouraging them to ask lots of questions of the texts/stories they are presented with.

The first resource includes a video of a year 6 class doing one of the exercises together, which is very helpful in illustrating what a good classroom discussion looks like.

An additional resource focuses on an exercise which ‘enables children to talk about the difference between power based force and the proper rule of law in which fairness is achieved through consultation and democracy.’

If these sorts of rigorous approaches to discussion were taken regarding all armed forces engagement with schools (such as any use of the very one-sided joint-Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister’s Office ‘British Armed Forces Learning Resource‘), students in the UK would have a much more balanced impression of the military.… Read more