Fears over Army targeting deprived schools debated by AMs

30/09/2015

BBC Wales


Concerns over how many visits army officers make to schools in deprived areas will be debated by assembly members on Wednesday.

In June, a cross-party committee suggested visits to schools in poorer areas were “disproportionate”.

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins said young people should have “fair access to all different career opportunities”.

The Ministry of Defence said the Armed Forces did not “recruit” in schools, but did visit if they were invited.

Ms Jenkins, a member of the assembly’s Petitions Committee, told BBC Wales: “I think it’s a concern because we have to allow for young people to be given the opportunity to have fair access to all different career opportunities.

“I think that focusing on one particular employment should be worrying for anybody, because we should be encouraging our young people to aspire to the best they can do, and not everybody will suit a career in the army.”

Not binding

The committee held an inquiry after receiving a petition from a group promoting peace. Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, called for the practice of army officers visiting schools to end.

The committee’s report recommended that the Welsh government “considers whether further research is needed into the reasons for the apparently disproportionate number of visits to schools in areas of relatively high deprivation”.

But the Ministry of Defence told the committee: “The Armed Forces do not ‘recruit’ in schools….Armed Forces teams, however, do undertake visits to many state and private schools across the UK, but only at the specific invitation of the schools and colleges themselves.”

Wednesday’s debate will consider the committee’s findings, but there will be no binding votes on ministers.