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.
Read more

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

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…

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

Get the armed forces away from universities

Now that the new academic year is starting, vans painted in camouflage colours are present in university campuses across the country. Next to these vans, smiley and well-groomed soldiers are trying to lure students into enlisting in the Naval Service, the British Army or the Royal Air Force. The promise is that their fees are going to be payed and a prosperous career in the armed forces is to be expected.

Surprisingly, there is very little criticism of the presence of the armed forces in the universities. Hidden under the cloak of heroism and necessity, the military, navy and air force are beyond scrutiny.

Now that each student is expected to pay £9,000 to get a place in a Russell Group university, it is pertinent to question whether it is permissible to have the armed forces in campuses, promising fee weavers and blooming careers to young undergraduates who are financially struggling to pay their way through university. Are the armed forces exploiting needy students who are in a weaker bargaining position?

The main criticism ought to be directed towards the Universities. As far as the armed forces are concerned they are doing nothing wrong. To the very least, they are doing what their contemporaries around the world do – they are appealing to those sections of the society that are needy enough to be willing to fight wars that the rest of us do not really bother with.… Read more

YouGov poll finds that Britons tend to think less of the Army’s importance the younger they are

As the British Army struggles to recruit new soldiers, YouGov polling finds that Britons tend to think less of the army’s importance the younger they are.

The British Army faces a recruitment crisis as the government’s decision to close dozens of recruitment offices and hand a £440m contract to outsourcing firm Capita is failing. New research by YouGov finds that the further down the age-scale you go, fewer Britons see the Army and the Army Reserves as important.

While 90% of 40-59 year olds and 93% of those over 60 see the army as important to Britain’s national interests, 82% of 25-39 year olds and 54% of 18-24 year olds feels the same.… Read more

Questioning the military’s presence and influence in UK schools and colleges

Did you know that the UK armed forces recruit 16-year-olds? Owen Everett from ForcesWatch explores the UK military’s wide influence in the education system and the concerns that arise from this.

The UK is the only country in the European Union that recruits 16-year-olds, and the influence of the UK military within UK schools, colleges, and universities is increasing. This article focuses upon the military’s influence in secondary schools and colleges, and challenges the ethics of the UK’s military recruitment.

The armed forces have been involved in schools for years through the cadets and armed forces visits1. The Government has recently also been promoting a ‘military ethos’ within schools through a Department for Education’s Programme2. The armed forces make around 11,000 visits to schools and colleges each year encountering approximately 900,000 students. State schools are visited more frequently than private ones, and the programme is aimed at schools in more deprived areas. Vulnerable social groups, including those from poorer backgrounds, are thus targeted.

Visits to schools include careers events and presentations, military?focused ‘development’ exercises such as team-building, leadership and interview techniques, interviews for pre?recruitment courses at armed forces bases, and sessions with staff. Students also visit military museums and military bases for work experience…… Read more

Troops to Teachers scheme failing to entice ex-soldiers into the classroom

It was supposed to address teacher shortages and instil a military ethos in schools, but take up is tiny and dominated by non-graduates.

A few years back, Colonel Edward Newman, 48, was commanding 3,000 troops at the end of a 30-year career in the Royal Logistics Corps. Today he’s teaching a year 7 class about slavery. There’s a well-burnished shine to his shoes and a straightness in his stance which hint at his military background, but otherwise he seems supremely comfortable in his new surroundings.”People keep asking if I miss the army, and I really don’t,” he says. “In some ways it’s very similar really, getting stuck in; lots of things going on. It’s just that I’ve gone from being the one in command to being in the classroom,” he grins. “And doing my own photocopying.”

Newman clearly relishes his new role: “I’d been a station commander in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, and at 46 I had 10 years left. The next job would have been behind a computer in HQ somewhere. I’d always wanted to do something else. I didn’t want to finish my time just having had one career. Teaching was perfect, and it just came together.”

Newman was a beneficiary of an early incarnation of the coalition’s Troops to Teachers programme – part of a drive by the then education secretary Michael Gove to inject a “military ethos” into schools.… Read more

Education & the Military: A human rights & peace perspective

In this publication, QUNO questions the presence and influence of the military in primary and secondary education from a peace and human rights perspective. Concerned at the military’s involvement in schools and the militarization of education, QUNO draws attention to relevant international human rights standards that promote education for peace.… Read more