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We are concerned at the increasing involvement of the armed forces in schools. Military personnel, with the support of DfES and MoD, are targeting children under the age of 16 during school hours to enlist in the armed forces.
The military’s involvement in schools includes giving careers guidance; providing discipline and motivation for disaffected pupils; and helping to ‘educate’ children.
The information the military provides on careers is misleading. Military life is portrayed as one of endless sporting activities, travel opportunities and skills training. Killing, dying or violence against civilians is not mentioned. This is akin to the Police Force visiting schools but failing to mention they often arrest people, or the Fire Brigade omitting all reference to fires.
Furthermore, the fact that in the UK a newly recruited child soldier of 16 years old only has a five-month window to leave the army before the age of 22 is not raised. Nor that the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK is party, makes clear that the recruitment of under 18-year-olds should only be in exceptional circumstances.
Through programmes such as Skill Force, military personnel take classes and hold one-to-one ‘tutorials’ for children with discipline and motivation problems. Military discipline and motivational techniques are not appropriate for young people in school. Unquestioning obedience, rigid hierarchical structures and verbal and physical violence are not consistent with the values schools aim to impart.
The armed forces also enter schools under the guise of education. The RAF’s maths programme, for example, provides exercises based on experiences in the RAF - experiences such as skiing, windsurfing, day-trips to Cumbria or visits to the fair. Again, this is a dishonest portrayal of life in the armed forces. Why is there the need for the RAF to help children with maths? Is this not what teachers are for?
Teachers, unlike military personnel, are trained to work specifically with children and to provide appropriate support for those experiencing academic, emotional or behavioural problems. Schools and teachers should be provided with the necessary resources to educate children without the need for outside help from the military.
School should be a place in which the values and skills of peaceful conflict resolution are promoted. It should be a safe environment where violence and threats of violence are discussed in an open, honest and frank manner - and finally rejected as a means of solving disputes. Military personnel are trained to use violence and ultimately to kill to achieve their aims. They are not appropriate role models for children.
Children should not be exposed to values based on violence or to insidious military recruitment programmes in schools. If the military are to be involved with schools at all, the purpose of their involvement must be made clear to teachers, pupils and parents.
Schools deserve honesty. We call upon you to stop military recruitment of children in schools.