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News coverage of the Scottish Parliament's report on armed forces visits to schools
04/06/2018

With the publication of the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee report on our petition on armed forces visits to schools, there has been substantial coverage in the news, including:

The Scotsman: Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee said the government should carry out a nationwide study of the impact of school visits by the armed forces. MSPs have also demanded more data on the number of visits in Scotland each year, calling on the Ministry of Defence to make clear exactly which schools it attends, and how often. The Scottish Government today said troops speaking to pupils in school must “not seek to exert undue or inappropriate influence”.

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-urged-to-ensure-army-school-visits-are-appropriate-1-4749049
Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-urged-to-ensure-army-school-visits-are-appropriate-1-4749049
Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-urged-to-ensure-army-school-visits-are-appropriate-1-4749049
Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-urged-to-ensure-army-school-visits-are-appropriate-1-4749049

The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee said the government should carry out a nationwide study of the impact of school visits by the armed forces.

MSPs have also demanded more data on the number of visits in Scotland each year, calling on the Ministry of Defence to make clear exactly which schools it attends, and how often.

The Scottish Government today said troops speaking to pupils in school must “not seek to exert undue or inappropriate influence”.

The National: MSPs urge SNP to tighten rules on MoD school visits

Committee chair Johann Lamont said: “A career in the armed forces is a legitimate choice.

“It can, however, be very different from many of the career options that young people consider, which is why we believe that the Scottish Government should undertake a child rights and wellbeing impact assessment to make sure that the information being given to our young people is appropriate. It is also important that armed forces visits should reflect both the opportunities and the risks associated with a career in the armed forces.”

The Herald: Pupils to be taught risks of joining the army after 'Top Gun' promotion fears

The committee heard evidence from the Scottish Youth Parliament’s submission that one school presentation was opened with music from the film Top Gun, which stars Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot.

The submission said: “It fictionalises what is at times a matter of life or death and glorifies killing.

“The presentation talked about the positives of being in the army, but didn’t address negative consequences.”

Independent Catholic News: Scottish Parliament recognises child rights and welfare concerns over armed forces activities in schools

Emma Sangster of ForcesWatch stated that, "We are very pleased that the Committee has recognised the underlying concerns of this petition and assessed it in terms of children's rights, in line with the Scottish government's established practice.

"We hope that the assessment will also consider some points of particular concern, such as visits to primary and special schools, and take a detailed look at the materials and activities across the range of armed forces visits to schools.

"There is clearly a strong recruitment aspect to military visits in schools across Scotland. The Committee itself has noted this, saying visits 'form part of the recruitment journey'. We are pleased that it has been recognised and call for greater oversight of recruitment in schools."

The Telegraph: MSPs call for child 'welfare assessment' of all armed forces visits to Scottish schools

The Scottish Government last night promised to consider the recommendations, which followed the committee’s inquiry into a petition lodged by Quakers in Scotland and ForcesWatch, a campaign group demanding changes to military recruitment protocols.

They urged ministers to ensure the information presented to pupils represents “a realistic representation” of life in the armed forces and that parents are consulted to ensure they are happy for their children to take part.

See our press release and further analysis from us and the Quakers.

CommonSpace (5/6/2018): Campaigners welcome Holyrood recognition that army visits to schools may be 'part of the recruitment journey'

Prior to the report’s publication, the MoD and the British armed forces gave oral evidence to the committee last year, in which one senior army member claimed that their engagement with young people in schools had ‘matured’ since 2014. This claim was contested by several petitioners.

While providing evidence to the committee, the armed forces denied that they target schools in deprived areas of Scotland for the purposes of recruitment.

Addressing concerns over "potential targeting of schools in areas of high economic deprivation,” SNP MSP Rona Mackay highlighted figures from 2010 to 2012, showing all army visits were made to state schools, with one school visited an "extraordinary" 31 times.

The Daily Record (11/6/2018): Army recruiters accused of targeting vulnerable children at Scottish special schools

Forces Watch, a group who ­scrutinise the armed forces, said pupils at special schools were more prone to be affected by this sort of marketing.

Children at a special school have usually been assessed and given a statement of special educational needs which may include learning or physical disabilities.

Emma Sangster of ForcesWatch said: “We feel that it is unacceptable for the Army to visit special schools and primary schools, as younger pupils and those with additional needs are particularly vulnerable to ­sophisticated marketing messages.

“Research shows young people with the greatest pre-service ­vulnerability are likely to fare least well when they enlist.”

In 2016-17 alone, there were six visits by forces personnel to special schools around Scotland. The schools included Edinburgh’s Gorgie Mills School, Willowbank School, ­Coatbridge, Kear Campus in Blantyre and Westmuir High School, Glasgow .

The Ministry of Defence have also been slammed for deliberately pinpointing poorer areas. The news comes as the armed forces across the UK are in the grip of a massive ­recruitment and retention crisis.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland already rely heavily on troops from Commonwealth countries, including Fiji and South Africa.

While giving evidence to the ­petitions committee, the Army confirmed they “support” schools with special needs.

Sangster added: “The question is why such a massive remit would be given to an organisation whose primary purpose is defence rather than educational, if no ­recruitment outcome was expected?”

See more information about the petition.

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