Holyrood should protect Scottish schools from creep of cadets


ForcesWatch press release

ForcesWatch is calling on the Scottish government to resist attempts to introduce Cadet units into the country’s state secondary schools.

Cadets traditionally play no part in Scottish state schools but the Westminster government is planning to spend £50m on a Cadet Expansion Programme (CEP) to increase the number of units in the UK from 355 to 500 by the end of the decade – with ‘less affluent’ areas being prioritised.

Despite education being a devolved matter the Ministry of Defence has formally asked the Scottish government for help making up the numbers of school based cadets forces (1).

Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, has opposed the move, saying there would be a “fair degree of concern among the teaching profession.”

ForcesWatch coordinator, Emma Sangster said:

“Cadet forces in schools are being presented as an opportunity to gain ‘key life skills’ but this masks the well-documented fact that the military regards them as an important tool for recruiting into the armed forces (2).

“It’s interesting to note that it was Julian Brazier – the Minister responsible for military recruitment – who made the approach to Holyrood.

“Joining the military is not something to do lightly and schools should not be involved in, nor influence, young people in making such a life-changing decision. There is a growing body of evidence that young recruits, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are subject to higher health risks and poorer long-term outcomes than older recruits (3).

“Targeting cadet forces to the most deprived areas in Scotland is therefore of great concern. The United Nations itself has warned the UK against focusing recruitment activity on children from low-income backgrounds.” (4)

Along with Quakers Scotland, ForcesWatch is bringing a petition before Holyrood in the spring calling for increased transparency and scrutiny regarding armed forces visits to schools. The petition will be collecting signatures online from late February.

A 2014 ForcesWatch report analysing data provided by the armed forces on their visits to schools in Scotland, showed that over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces during a two year period while independent schools were visited far less frequently, and not at all by the army (5).

In some areas, every school was visited, and some were visited many times. About one third of the visits were explicitly about careers in the armed forces, while other visits will also have had a careers element.

According to available data the UK armed forces make a disproportionate number of visits to schools and colleges in Scotland, compared to England.



1. ‘Tories attacked over plan to recruit Scotland’s poorest schoolchildren as ‘cannon fodder’ for British Army’, Sunday Herald, 17 January 2016

2. ‘The recruitment agenda behind the UK armed forces’ ‘engagement’ with students in schools & colleges’, ForcesWatch, 2015.

3. For a summary of these concerns, see ‘The British armed forces: Why raising the recruitment age would benefit everyone’, Child Soldiers International, December 2015.

4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2008), ‘Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict’, para.15

5. ‘Armed forces visits to secondary schools in Scotland’, ForcesWatch, 2014.

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