BRITAIN’S LEADING PACIFIST GROUP has condemned plans by ministers to put an extra £1.1 million into armed forces cadet units in English schools, after a decade of heavy cuts to other youth services.

The UK government has already put more than £50 million into creating new school cadet forces since 2016. Meanwhile, youth services in the UK were cut by over £400 million between 2010 and 2019, according to analysis by Unison.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson say that the new £1.1 million will allow for extra staffing in existing cadet units. But the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) denounced the policy as the latest example of everyday militarism in the UK. They urged the government to instead fund civilian youth services that can promote teamwork, resilience and leadership skills without military values of violence, nationalism and subservience to authority.

The PPU hears often from teachers, parents and school students who are alarmed by attempts to set up cadet forces in their schools.

The PPU says the announcement is the latest in a string of militaristic policies in recent weeks, including a 44 per cent increase in the upper limit on UK nuclear warheads and the biggest percentage increase in UK military spending since the Korean War.

Saffron Gallup of the Peace Pledge Union said: “It is incredibly disappointing to see this distorted allocation of funding, when there are ongoing and overwhelming calls from parents/carers, unions, local groups and young people themselves to invest in wellbeing and mental health services. Funding to youth services has been cut by £400 million between 2010-19. Cadet forces have no place in schools and are certainly not the only agency capable of enabling ‘the development of personal responsibility, leadership and self-discipline’.”

Robert Campbell, who served for 13 years as a secondary school headteacher, said: “The presence of cadet forces in our schools is an increasing anachronism; the era of British imperialism and military domination is over and we need to be forging a new identity as a compassionate and peaceful nation. Regimented conformity is not the skillset we ought to be nurturing in young people in the 21st century, when imaginative and innovative solutions are needed to navigate the challenges and issues we all face: economically, socially, environmentally, politically.”

Katie McLean of the PPU Youth Network said: “Students can learn resilience, leadership and working as part of a team from sports teams, dance classes, theatre groups or critical thinking classes and activities. It is the government who benefit from youth more receptive to military recruitment. Students would benefit from more support for the youth centres and activities they love, which have been consistently defunded over the past ten years.”

* Read the Unison analysis of cuts to youth services here.

* Source: Peace Pledge Union