resources: military in schools

May 2017

In early 2017, the Ministry of Defence, and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, praised the social mobility prospects offered by the military. They presented the military as a champion of social mobility for those who enlist in the lower ranks, and for recruits from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds with low educational attainment.

Michael Fallon was referring to figures that show that slightly under a third of officers across the forces progressed from lower ranks; he commended the Potential Officer Development Programme for demonstrating the military’s ‘commitment to social mobility.’

General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff, suggested that social mobility was central to the aims of the Army, stating that, ‘The Army is a modern, inclusive employer and I want every recruit to be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Second Lieutenant Cousland is a tremendous example of how schemes like this can give those who don’t have the best possible start in life a leg up, while helping us maximise the talent of everyone in the Army.’

The Ministry of Defence and Fallon then listed ‘a host of other successful education initiatives aimed at being a vehicle for social mobility’.

This briefing explores if these claims about social mobility stand up to scrutiny or whether enlisting in the armed forces can have a negative impact upon social mobility, particularly for very young recruits.

It concludes that:

Those who are truly concerned with social mobility must challenge the promotion of the military within education in particular and call for a rise in the minimum recruitment age to 18. Young people from all backgrounds much be given a greater range of opportunities and the myth that the armed forces will guarantee a rewarding and long-term career must not be allowed to prevail.

updated 2017

"The army careers advisers who operate in schools are skilled salesmen." Head of Army recruitment strategy, quoted in New Statesman, 2007

The armed forces have a growing involvement in secondary schools, colleges and even primary schools. While the Army, Navy and RAF have long run activities in schools as part of the Ministry of Defence's Youth Engagement programme, the Department for Education promotes 'military ethos' within education, and parts of the armed forces, along with the arms industry, are developing their involvement with curriculum provision and sponsorship of education institutions.

This A4 leaflet (updated 2017) outlines the issue and what the concerns are.

With the presence of the military in public spaces increasing and a high level of popularity for the armed forces, it is not always easy to respond to challenging questions that people pose in when faced with concerns expressed about militarism. Here we explore some responses to questions about how much the armed forces should be involved in our everyday lives, how they relate to young people, and the effectiveness and consequences of military action.

November 2016

The Peacemakers organisation, who provide peace education for schools, has produced a useful short summary of the basics of teaching controversial issues with a list of other resources on the subject.

More guidance and resources can be found at The Citizenship Foundation.

November 2016

The Quakers work on peace education, as well as other peace issues - carrying it out in schools and promoting it as a necessary part of the curriculum.

See here for current Quaker projects, peace education resources and their partner organisations.

November 2016

Veterans for Peace UK is an international chapter of the U.S.network. 

They run workshops in schools and colleges giving an honest view of military life, as well as publish and campaign around military and peace issues. 

October 2016

Listen to talks given by David Gee (writer on militarism and campaigning to raise the age of recruiting into the UK armed forces) and Ben Griffin (Veterans for Peace UK) from the conference on Creeping Militarisation of Everyday Life organised by Movement for the Abolition of War Youth. 

June 2016

The Committee on the Rights of the Child recently reviewed the UK's position on implementing the articles and protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They made a number of recommendations relating to the armed forces recruitment of under-18s and the military's activities in schools.

February 2016
  • ForcesWatch welcomes the Education Committee’s inquiry. We strongly believe that a key purpose of education in England should be to equip students with the ability to think critically. This will help students make informed decisions about issues and institutions which is both a crucial life skill, and will aid them to contribute to the improvement of our democracy and our society.
  • Currently, the UK military has significant, and growing, influence in the UK education system which raises a number of concerns around critical thinking about the military, armed forces careers, and issues of peace and conflict resolution. These pro-military messages are not balanced by the inclusion of a structured framework for peace education within the curriculum, and the UK government is failing to implement recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as a result.
  • We outline a range of general educational and more detailed concerns and questions that need to be addressed in the wake of the growing influence of the military in education.
  • We make a number of recommendations for ensuring wider public debate and consultation around these developments and increasing the monitoring and oversight of military involvement in schools.
November 2015

Alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Occasion of the UK's fifth periodic review report

This report highlights that peace education is not being promoted in schools. This is counter to the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to the UK Government that peace education should be part of the curriculum. 

This raises concerns particularly with the increased promotion of the military within schools through the Department for Education's 'military ethos' programme and free military-related learning resources, and as the armed forces continue to conduct a substantial 'youth engagement' programme. 

This report focuses on:

  • The absence of a compulsory and organised curriculum of peace education within UK schools.
  • The increased promotion of the military within the educational system by the Government and by the armed forces.
  • Concerns regarding this activity taking place within education, including the process of recruitment to the armed forces.