New report raises concerns about armed forces visits to Scottish schools


ForcesWatch press release

A new report published today shows that the armed forces visited four fifths (83%) of state secondary schools within a two year period, between 2010-2012. The report argues that the purpose of many of the visits is related to recruitment into the armed forces.

The report is published by ForcesWatch and is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.(2) 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.(3)

The figures show that 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.”

Emma Sangster from ForcesWatch, said,

“It is clear from this research that the armed forces put a significant amount of time and resources into visiting Scottish state secondary schools, and some schools receive many visits during the academic year. While the Ministry of Defence deny that the armed forces actually recruit in schools, we know from their own documents that these visits have a recruitment purpose, and at least one third of visits are explicitly about a career in the armed forces.

“This issue has been raised in the Welsh Assembly, who are now looking at exploring a better practice regarding issues of balance around armed forces visits to schools. We hope that the Scottish Assembly will also look at this issue and how to ensure that schools are not be used to further non-educational agendas.” (4)

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said,

“The EIS respects that some young people may wish to consider a career in the armed forces and that the services can sometimes have a presence, along with other employers, at recruitment fairs and information days. However, the EIS believes that no employer, including the armed forces, should have unfettered or privileged access to schools for the purposes of recruitment. In particular, disproportionate numbers of visits to schools in areas of deprivation must be avoided as these can raise concerns over the motivation behind such a concerted PR drive in these 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)



Emma Sangster, ForcesWatch: / 07582 054169


The report is available for download from 19 December at:



1. ForcesWatch scrutinises armed forces recruitment practices and proposes changes in policy aimed at better serving the interests of young people. See

2. The Freedom of Information data relates to the academic years of 2010-2012. Subsequent data was unavailable or not reliable. The data has been aggregated and duplicates removed. A small number of visits to schools outside of Scotland and visits involving school students but not on school premises were also removed. The data is available at:

3. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is the largest teaching union in Scotland. See

4. See Welsh Assembly Petition Committee minutes of meeting on 26 November 2013, from point 35:

5. See Hansard, HC (2013). 15 April 2013. Armed Forces: Schools

See more: military in schools/colleges, recruitment, ForcesWatch, Scotland, education