Young people criticise military activities in schools as government announces more funding for cadets


ForcesWatch press release

A week after the government pledged a further £1 million for more cadet forces in state secondary schools, a new film is launched which shows that many young people are critical of the promotion of military activities in their schools.

The film, ‘Engage: the military and young people’, which will be launched on Thursday 26 June, explores the opinions of British teenagers on the military’s ‘youth engagement’ activities – particularly the cadets – and the governments ‘Military Ethos in Schools’ policy.

On 18 June the Department for Education announced that it will give £1 million (with additional match funding) from the Libor banking fines towards the expansion of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) in state schools, as part of the Department for Education’s ‘Military Ethos in Schools’ programme (2, 3). This is on top of the almost £11 million already allocated to establish 100 new CCF units by 2015 (4) and nearly £5 million for military-led activities for ‘disengaged pupils’ (5).

ForcesWatch, who commissioned the film, are concerned that the expansion of cadet units, and other military-led activities, in schools serves as a soft recruitment tool and training programme for the armed forces and question whether the promotion of military activities within education is appropriate (6). The Ministry of Defence and Cadet Forces Associations deny there is a recruitment link despite other official sources which suggest a strong recruitment purpose (7).

Emma Sangster from ForcesWatch, said, “A great deal of money is being spent promoting the military in schools when other education and youth resources are being cut. This film suggests that many young people are critical of military activities in their schools and the motivations behind it. It also shows that, while participation in cadet activities may benefit some young people, it also makes them more likely to be recruited into the armed forces. As the cadets are clearly a recruitment tool, we do not believe that they should be promoted in schools.”

The film is made by teenage journalists from the London-based charity Headliners (8), and commissioned by ForcesWatch. It includes interviews with young Londoners in the Air Cadets and with young members of the Woodcraft Folk, a UK-wide youth organisation, who are campaigning against the thousands of armed forces visits to schools and colleges that take place each year, and against cadet units run by schools (9).

Speakers at the film launch will include young people from Headliners and the Woodcraft Folk, and ex-soldier and founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Ben Griffin.



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

2. Dept for Education, 18 June 2014, ‘New fund to expand cadet units in state schools’

3. For a brief summary of the policy initiatives see Dept for Education, 2012, ‘Creating a military ethos in academies and free schools’

4. Dept for Education, 2012, ‘Details of a £10.85 million boost to aid in the recruitment of cadets’–2

5. Dept for Education, 2013, ‘DfE grants £4.8 million to projects led by ex-armed forces personnel to tackle underachievement by disengaged pupils’

6. See for example, ForcesWatch, 2013, ‘Why are education projects run by ex-services being prioritised’
ForcesWatch, 2013, ‘Unpacking ‘recruitment’: what does the MoD mean when it says the armed forces do not run recruitment activities in schools?’ 

7. See for example, ‘The ACF is not a recruiting ground for the Armed Forces’
Ministry of Defence sources on the recruitment potential of the cadets: Telegraph, 2013, ‘Public school funding for military cadet forces diverted to state sector’
Ministry of Defence, Youth Engagement Review, 2011, page i:

8. Headliners:

9. Woodcraft Folk:

See more: cadets, military in schools/colleges, recruitment, recruitment age, Engage film, ForcesWatch, funding, military ethos