Parliament considers military visits to schools petition
ForcesWatch press release
Members of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee asked for views at an initial hearing in September. Local authorities, the Scottish Government, the MoD and others then submitted responses.
The Scottish Youth Parliament and Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, were particularly supportive of the petition.
The SYP found that the majority of young people consulted ‘agreed that guidance should be developed’ and also ‘felt that there should be public monitoring of visits to schools’.
Mr Baillie said: ‘There should be clear national guidance about the content of such visits and when and where they are to be conducted’.
All the responses, including the reply from ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland (1), can be found here:
(See Petitioner Letter of 11 November for our final response).
A 2014 ForcesWatch report highlighted how over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces during a two year period. (2)
In some areas every school was visited, and some as many as 20 times or more over a two year period. Many of the visits were explicitly about careers in the armed forces.
The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament Education and Culture Committee to hold an inquiry into armed forces visits, and for the Scottish Government and local authorities to:
- Produce guidance for local authorities and schools on how visits by the armed forces should be conducted.
- Increase scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools, including monitoring the number and location of visits and seeking to establish whether there is a link with deprivation indicators.
- Ensure schools always consult parents/guardians as to whether they are happy for their child to take part in armed forces activities at school.
The public petition gathered over a thousand signatories earlier this year and has the active support of the SNP Youth.
ForcesWatch coordinator, Emma Sangster, said: “It’s obvious from the responses received by the Committee that there is a lack of clarity regarding the nature of armed forces visits and who is responsible for overseeing them.
“There is no clear guidance and that is a real concern. We feel there needs to be a coordinated national approach on this.
“We would like to see the involvement of young people, parents, teachers and others in drawing up guidelines and a commitment from the armed forces to make accessible good quality data that covers the range of ways in which they engage with young people in the education system.
“ForcesWatch would like to see the approach to this issue come from a child rights and welfare perspective – one which recognises the UK as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Scottish Government as a body that leads on children’s rights and welfare.
“We also point to the legal requirement of schools and local authorities to act in loco parentis and safeguard the rights and wellbeing of children in their care.”
Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain, said: “This issue needs scrutiny and public debate by all in Scottish society, especially parents and children themselves.
“Quakers in Scotland are led by faith to be concerned about increasing militarisation in Scottish state schools.”
A motion has now also been tabled in the Scottish Parliament by Christina McKelvie MSP around the findings of a recent report by the public health charity, Medact.(3)
The report examines the evidence that under-18 recruits face greater risks to health than adult recruits, across the course of an armed forces career. It provides a strong argument that national guidance to ensure balance is in the best interests of Scottish children.(4)
The Committee will consider the petition (PE1603) from 10am on Thursday 24 November in the Mary Fairfax Sommerville Room (CR2).
For more information and media enquiries contact: ForcesWatch – 07752 304 113 or email email@example.com
Quakers in Scotland – Anne van Staveren, Media Relations Officer – 020 7663 1048, 07958 009703, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. ForcesWatch scrutinises armed forces recruitment practices and proposes changes in policy aimed at better serving the interests of young people. See http://www.forceswatch.net
For information about Quakers in Scotland see http://quakerscotland.org/
2. ‘Armed forces visits to secondary schools in Scotland’ (ForcesWatch, 2014), http://www.forceswatch.net/resources/armed-forces-visits-secondary-schools-scotland
3. The motion tabled by Christina McKelvie MSP is available at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-02539
4. ‘The Recruitment of Children by the UK Armed Forces: a Critique from Health Professionals’ (Medact, October 2016) examines the evidence that under-18 recruits face greater risks to health than adult recruits, across the course of an armed forces career. http://www.medact.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/medact_childrecruitment_17-oct_WEB.pdf