Report: Armed Forces Visits to Secondary Schools in Scotland

UPDATE: see our new briefing on armed forces visits to schools in Scotland, 2016-17 (Nov 2017)

This report has been compiled by ForcesWatch and is co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) which is is the largest teaching union in Scotland.

The report is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It has been co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland which has expressed concerns that some armed forces visits may have a recruitment purpose.

The report shows that the armed forces visited four fifths (83%) of state secondary schools within a two year period, between 2010-2012. The armed forces visited state secondary schools in Scotland an average of twice each year. Visits were concentrated in the east of Scotland and the central belt. Thirty-one state secondary schools in these areas were visited over 10 times during the period. Six schools were visited over 20 times.

The report also analyses the type of activities that the armed forces provide in schools. Over one third of visits were about promoting a career in the armed forces. Other activities are related to the curriculum or the personal development of students; although these activities are less obviously linked to recruitment, evidence suggests that they are likely to include a promotional element.

The report discusses the aims of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces’ ‘youth engagement’ programme and concludes that:

“Despite assurances by the Ministry of Defence and the three armed services that the armed forces do not recruit in schools, it is evident that many of the activities provided by members of the armed forces in schools are recruitment-related and the recruitment potential of visits is a key purpose of many, if not most, of their visits to schools.”

Key findings

  • Across Scotland, 83% of all state secondary schools were visited at least once during the two year period (2010-12).

  • 42% of visits to state secondary schools were made by the British Army, 31% by the Royal Navy and 27% by the Royal Air Force. Together the three services visited state secondary schools in Scotland an average of twice each year.

  • Edinburgh, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Angus, Dumfries & Galloway, and Perth & Kinross had the highest number of visits to state secondary schools from all the armed services.

  • Half (50%) of the 32 Scottish local authorities, had armed forces visits to all or almost all of their state secondary schools (95% or more).

  • 31 state secondary schools in Scotland were visited 10 or more times during the period. Six were visited over 20 times.

  • Independent schools in Scotland were visited less frequently and not at all by the Army.

  • Career-related activities were recorded as the reason for 35% of all visits to state secondary schools by the armed forces. Curriculum-related visits accounted for 20% of all visits. Activities around student development accounted for 42% of all visits. Visits not expressly described as careers-related may nonetheless promote armed forces careers.

  • Overall figures for each country in the UK for the number of visits to secondary schools and colleges for 2011-2012 show that visits to Scottish schools represent 11.2% of the total UK visits. However, its population accounts for only 8.4% of the UK population, indicating that proportionately more visits are made to Scottish schools. A similar picture emerges for Wales and Northern Ireland. (5)

Read the report: Armed forces visits to secondary schools in Scotland

Read the press release

Ask your MP to support raising the age of recruitment

Scottish Parliament Petition

ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament to:

  • scrutinise armed forces visits to schools in Scotland
  • provide guidance on how such visits should be conducted
  • ensure that parents are always consulted.

The petition is now being heard by the Scottish Parliament. See more info.

Watch our film - Engage: the military and young people

Why does the military have a 'youth engagement' policy and why is the government promoting 'military ethos' within education? What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools? This short film explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

See film and more info. With Welsh subtitles

Our military out of schools campaign

The UK armed forces visit thousands of schools each year. They offer school presentation teams, youth teams, ‘careers advice’ and lessons plans. The Department for Education is promoting 'military ethos in schools'. Should the armed forces by given access to children within education? Should 'military values' be promoted in schools? How can we challenge these activities? How can a more balanced view of what life in the armed forces involves be given to young people? Read more about the Military Out Of Schools campaign