A critical response to ‘The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014’

March 2015

The report is published in conjunction with the video The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? produced by Quaker Peace & Social Witness

This report explains why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in September 2014 by the Prime Minister’s Office) is a poor quality educational resource, and exposes the resource as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and “military values” in schools.

The document is framed as a History, English and Citizenship resource for children and teenagers from as young as 5 years old. Endorsed and promoted to all schools by the Department for Education, its stated aim is to ‘to educate children about the work of the UK armed forces’.

The critique includes responses from a number of educationalists worried about Government and the armed forces producing materials for schools inappropriate for use in education. Don Rowe, Citizenship Education consultant and former Director of Curriculum Resources at the Citizenship Foundation, stated that the Resource is ‘demonstrably biased’ and has called for its withdrawal. He says,

Culturally, this is the kind of resource one gets in countries with less-than-democratic structures where civic education is used by governments to manipulate citizens into an uncritical attitude towards the state. In the UK we used to have a system of education which was ‘at one remove’ from the government and one of the reasons for this was precisely to prevent the possibility of authoritarianism through control of the education system. 

The critique also accuses the government of overblown rhetoric to promote the military in classrooms, glorifying “military values” and sanitising war. Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, claims in the Resource that, ‘The military ethos is a golden thread that can be an example of what is best about our nation and helps it improve everything it touches.’

The report concludes that the educational and ethical concerns strongly indicate that:

The ‘British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014’ should not be used in schools as a learning resource, or should only be used in conjunction with alternative materials, and it should not be promoted as a learning resource by third parties.

Furthermore, we consider that the document amounts to political interference in children’s education. The Department of Education is failing in its legal duty, under the Education Act of 1996, to safeguard children from the promotion of partisan political views within schools and to offer a balanced presentation of opposing views; local authorities that promote the resource, and schools that use it as it stands without presenting alternative viewpoints, would be doing the same.

Key concerns:

  • The resource was initiated by the Office of the Prime Minister and has key sections written by government ministers including the Prime Minister. Other sections are written by current or former high-ranking military personnel. Its content is politically-driven, seeking to generate public acceptance of government policy and the use of military intervention, and it presents personal and political opinions as fact.
  • It is poorly conceived as a tool for learning. For example, the language it uses and the complexity of the subject matter make it unsuitable for many of those it is aimed at. Many of the questions that it asks are introduced in a leading way and the material that would be required to explore them fully is not provided.
  • The resource makes a one-sided case for the existence of the armed forces and the arms industry and provides no room for debate on alternatives to armed conflict. It presents a sanitised view of war and glorifies “military values”. The resource includes material that promotes recruitment to the armed forces and champions the government policy of promoting military-led activities in schools.
  • It presents a partial and uncritical history of British involvement in war, ignoring debate over the morality and legacy of such conflicts.

The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom?

produced by Quaker Peace & Social Witness, February 2015

Read the press release: Government accused of military propaganda in the classroom


See also: