A NEW REPORT BY THREE ORGANISATIONS has revealed that armed forces’ visits to Welsh schools are acting as a “fig-leaf” for military recruitment. The evidence contradicts repeated claims by the forces that they do not recruit in schools.
Researchers from Cymdeithas y Cymod (the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales), ForcesWatch and the Peace Pledge Union spent two years finding, collecting and analysing data about military visits to schools in Wales. They found that the armed forces are frequently presented in simplistic and misleading ways and that the poorest young people are the most likely to be targeted. They also criticised the Welsh Government for a lack of action following a 2015 inquiry into military visits to schools by the Petitions Committee of the (then) National Assembly for Wales.
Launching their report ahead of the Senedd elections on 6 May, the three organisations have urged politicians of all parties to commit themselves to taking action on the issue of military visits to schools.
They conclude that:
- The Welsh Government has made no real progress on commitments they made in 2015 regarding military involvement in Welsh schools.
- The armed forces are portrayed in schools in misleading and simplistic ways, not balanced by alternative perspectives on the complex ethical and political issues involved.
- Misleading military recruitment messages are frequently aimed at the poorest and most disadvantaged young people.
- While a relatively small percentage of young people are recruited into the armed forces, many more are ‘recruited’ to pro-military attitudes, often without hearing alternative voices.
- The situation is made worse by the fact that the UK armed forces recruit from 16 – a lower age than in any other country in Europe.
- If the Welsh Government is fully committed to implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it must not only actively seek for the age of recruitment to be increased, but must also take action that is within its power to limit unregulated access to young people for recruitment activities
The report’s authors urge the Welsh Government to use the evidence presented in the report to guide a formal review into military activities in Welsh schools.
Other recommendations include the need for guidance to be issued by the Welsh Government to headteachers and careers teachers about armed forces in schools, and the need for young people to be encouraged to approach information on military careers with open-minded and enquiring attitudes.
The research was carried out in the face of the armed forces’ refusal to publish important statistics and other details about their activities in schools. The report’s authors call for a legal requirement to be introduced so that the forces have to make such information publicly available.
Rhun Dafydd of Cymdeithas y Cymod, said: “There is a unique opportunity for the next Welsh Government to draw a line in the sand about Wales’ status as a peace-loving nation, and one which will not uncritically allow its children to be the target of military recruitment.”
Symon Hill of the Peace Pledge Union said: “School students rarely hear from voices who are critical of the military when the forces are invited into schools. Post-Covid, we should be raising our ambition by offering young people skills to aid Wales’ green recovery, rather than pushing them towards dangerous careers which will damage their mental wellbeing.”
Emma Sangster of ForcesWatch said: “The Welsh Government were told in 2015 to ensure that a diverse range of employers visit schools to inform pupils about career opportunities. They have ignored that recommendation, and as a result the armed forces have been given carte blanche to continue to carry out recruitment activities in schools, contrary to Wales’ children’s rights agenda.”
* Read a summary of the report’s main findings and recommendations here
* Read the report in full here.
* Source: Peace Pledge Union.