Updates on £50m for over 300 new Cadet units in disadvantaged state schools

Here are several updates following last week’s government budget announcement that £50 million would go to expanding the number of state school Combined Cadet Forces to 500 (an increase of over 300), focusing on disadvantaged schools:

* Schools Week have discovered that the request for the extra £50m government funding for the expansion of Combined Cadet Forces into around 300 more state schools was made by the MoD

* Criticisms of the funding decision have come from the National Youth Agency (“it’s a real missed opportunity not to have invested some of it in good quality youth work which delivers ‘character’ and a whole lot more besides for young people”), and the Quakers (“Ultimately, militarism in schools leads to two kinds of recruitment: the recruitment of teenagers into the armed forces, and the recruitment of wider society to be war ready. Both go undebated. Why can’t we invest in education for peace, not war?”)

it’s a real missed opportunity not to have invested some of it in good quality youth work which delivers ‘character’ and a whole lot more besides for young people.” – See more at: http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1152461/budget-2015-osborne-announces-drive-to-create-more-cadet-units-in-schools#sthash.V1YrWy0L.dpuf
it’s a real missed opportunity not to have invested some of it in good quality youth work which delivers ‘character’ and a whole lot more besides for young people.”
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‘Character Building’ range of HM Armed Forces toys

A ‘Character Building’ series of armed forces toys licensed by the MoD is discredited by the new Veterans for Peace UK short film on some of the things that these toys don’t show, and by developments in ‘character education’ that indicate there is no need for ‘military ethos’ initiatives in UK schools.

Following the launch of Veterans For Peace UK’s new short film and toys, Battlefield Casualties – in response to the overwhelmingly sanitised image of war presented by most contemporary military toys, and in response to indications that ‘character education’ needn’t involve any military element, it’s striking to come across this ‘Character Building’ range of Lego-like HM Armed Forces toys, licensed by the MoD in 2011, which add to a series of more ‘lifelike’ (though equally sanitised) action man-style armed forces toys from the same company.

The ‘Character Building’ range includes this RAF Reaper drone and remote pilot (photo credit: David Gee).… Read more

The British Armed Forces need to stop targeting and recruiting children

The freelance journalist Lee Williams gives an overview of the UK military’s youth engagement, and presents a strong ethical case for why the armed forces should stop recruiting children.

Soldiers aged between 16 and 18 are twice as likely to die on the battlefield once they’re adults, and have a much higher suicide rate than the average for their age

The UK is one of only 19 countries in the world that still recruits 16-year-olds into its armed forces. The others include North Korea and Iran. What’s more, British teenagers – otherwise deemed too young to drive a car, drink alcohol or marry – are twice as likely to be killed as personnel recruited over the age of 18. Mental illness is also more prevalent in these recruits, with a suicide rate 82 per cent higher than civilians of the same age.

These uncomfortable facts clearly don’t fit in with the shiny nature of Armed Forces Day, which was celebrated this Saturday with parades, fly pasts, parachute displays, and speeches by David Cameron.

If only the truth was palatable enough to be celebrated. Numerous organisations including Amnesty International, the National Union of Teachers, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, have challenged the Government’s policy of recruiting what many regard as child soldiers.… Read more

Armed forces not required to offer soldiers aged 16-17 the same standard of education that is required in civilian life

Compulsory education for 16-17s: research reveals that the armed forces are not required to give child soldiers the same minimum standard as civilian institutions. The minimum attainment requirement of the Army (which has the vast majority of children in the armed forces) is shown to be very low.

‘[The] response from the Department for Education to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the armed forces are exempt from legislation governing the continuing participation of young people in education. From 2015, the Education and Skills Act commits civilians aged 16 and 17 in full-time employment to study for 280 Guided Learning Hours per year towards accredited qualifications. The effect of the armed forces’ exemption is that they are not bound by any legal minimum standard, so are not required to offer young soldiers the same standard of education that is required in civilian life.

This is despite frequent claims by the army, navy and air force that their educational provision is of benefit to young people.

In fact, the army’s youngest trainees, aged 16, are offered only low-grade Functional Skills in English, maths and ICT. This type of qualification has been strongly criticised by education experts, is not designed to be stand-alone qualifications, is not at all comparable with GCSEs in the same subjects, and is rarely recognised by employers. In… Read more

Military ethos in schools is not character education but recruitment propaganda, claim Mark Thomas and Clare Short

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In a new film from the Quakers, comedian Mark Thomas and former MP Clare Short claim the Government is misusing the education system to encourage support for its wars and to promote careers in the armed forces.

The Unseen March was filmed by The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in response to growing concerns about the Government’s promotion of the armed forces and its rhetoric around British values and character.

Quakers hope the film will provoke an open, public debate about the role of the armed forces in education and closer examination of what we really mean by expecting schools to teach character and British values.

In the film, Ben Griffin – a former paratrooper and founder of Veterans for Peace – believes the military is selling the idea of military ethos in order to gain access to schools.

He claims that ‘military ethos’ is actually about instilling obedience without question, developing a gang mentality and removing the innate psychological barrier to killing.

Citizenship Foundation founding director Don Rowe is ‘shocked’. ‘Education is about teaching young people how to think,’ he says, ‘how to be rational, how to look at evidence, how to weigh up different points of view’. A recent armed forces’ teaching pack is, he claims, ‘nothing more than a promotional booklet’.… Read more

British Veterans Made Some Dark Films to Protest the UK Army’s Recruitment of 16-Year-Olds

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An article on the context of the striking new short film from Veterans for Peace UK, Action Man: Battlefield Casualties , which presents a new range of war-traumatised action men.

‘Daniel Campbell wakes up drenched in sweat. Every muscle in his body is tense. The dead child, the one he couldn’t save, is back. He creeps to the bathroom. The child is waiting for him. Its bloodied face stares at him accusingly from inside the mirror. He splashes cold water on his forehead and returns wearily to bed.

Daniel Campbell was a child soldier in the British Army. “I wanted to see the world and I wanted to help people,” he says, remembering the day he stepped, aged 16, into Portsmouth’s recruitment centre. And see the world he did: left with severe PTSD after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army abandoned him as if he were a broken toy.

The basic brutality that underpins the work of the British Armed Forces is not something that recruiters tend to dwell on when pitching to kids. So a group of former soldiers, Veterans For Peace UK, have taken it upon themselves to highlight the harsh realities of life and death in, and after, the army.… Read more

Critical scrutiny of military ethos initiatives continues

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An example of how critical scrutiny of the Military Ethos in Schools programme is being sustained from people outside of ForcesWatch, comes from an Institute of Education conference in February 2015, where Victoria Basham, senior lecturer in Politics at Exeter University, gave a critical overview of the Department for Education’s Military Ethos in Schools programme.

Victoria made several key points:

* there is very little evidence as to why a ‘military ethos’ is good for UK schoolchildren

* the military have traditionally stated their need to be different from civilians, given their unique role of using armed force. Is it convincing that they can now fit into the education system in an acceptable way?

* there is a long list of workers in other organisations that exemplify and imbue values of hard work, teamwork, leadership, etc. Moreover, other values such as creativity, and questioning/critical thinking are being overlooked by the military ethos approach, which means that it is reinforcing a two-tier education system (though it is worth noting that the military ethos alternative provision organisation Commando Joe’s, who work with children as young as five, have the motto ‘No Child Left Behind’, and have recently stated their intention to work with all students – not just the most disadvantaged)

* any students that join the armed forces as a result of military ethos initiatives will almost definitely join as ‘other ranks’, with higher risks associated than commissioned officers

In the questions and discussion that followed Victoria’s talk, one teacher, a Navy reservist, said that they were sceptical of the Troops to Teachers scheme, given the different approaches to discipline in the military and schools.… Read more

The Army offer ‘Soldiers to Schools’ as First World War Centenary ‘support’

In addition to placing a soldier on each school coach visiting the First World War battlefields (as part of the government’s flagship  Centenary initiative to have at least two students from every school in the country visit them), the Army have launched their own First World War teaching resources for schools, and are offering to send soldiers to schools to ‘support teaching activities’.

Their resources for schools overlook the recruitment and propaganda that the military carried out in schools during the war. They also overlook the fact that the UK had around ¼ million boy soldiers,  roughly 120,000 of who were killed or injured.

The Army deny that their ‘Soldiers to Schools’ scheme is recruitment, despite it having a major focus on the Army today, and despite the well-documented strong recruitment agenda behind their schools engagement in general.… Read more

MoD claims request for sensitive student data to aid Army recruitment an “error”

‘The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been blocked from obtaining highly sensitive personal data about school and college students, which had ostensibly been sought in order to help “target its messaging” around military careers…’

‘MoD requests sensitive pupil data…by mistake’

On 5 June 2015 Schools Week reported:

‘The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been blocked from obtaining highly sensitive personal data about school and college students, which had ostensibly been sought in order to help “target its messaging” around military careers.

A request to access the National Pupil Database (NPD) – which includes children’s addresses, absence figures and parental occupation – was made on behalf of the MoD last year. A spokesman for the government department told Schools Week this was an “error” made by an individual and not in line with its policy.

But ForcesWatch, a campaign group scrutinising army recruitment policies, said the fact the request was denied showed “how inappropriate the MoD’s intended use of the data was”.

The news came to light after the Department for Education (DfE) released details of all requests to access the NPD as part of its transparency process. Only nine out of more than 460 applications since 2012 have been refused.… Read more

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