Briefing: Militarization of Children and Young People

This Briefing gives details of a series of recently initiated and ongoing programmes that together represent a concerted expansion of militaristic culture designed to infiltrate our public institutions and  promote the military as benign – a clandestine strategy to up recruitment at a time when public perception of the government’s adventuristic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in falling levels of recruitment.  We give links to further reading, resources and suggestions for what you can do.

These include:

Armed Forces Days, initiated in 2009 and marketed as Family Fun Days.

Armed Forces Community Covenants and Armed Forces Corporate Covenants

Armed forces visits to schools, the real purpose of which is recruitment

The Department for Education’s ‘military ethos’ in schools programme 

Expansion of Combined Cadet Force (CCF) units to 500 schools by 2020

Troops to Teachers programme

Proposed military academies and free schools

Soldiers to Schools programme

Download the full Briefing Here

It may not be obvious that there is an ongoing expansion of militaristic culture being embedded in our institutions and public calendar. But the government is doing just that. P&J News readers will be aware of the annual Armed Forces Days. There were parades through Stirling in June 2014 and Edinburgh in 2015 with displays of weapons and opportunities for children to clamber over tanks and handle automatic weapons. Armed Forces Day was initiated by the government in 2009 and marketed as Family Fun Days. It is only the tip of the iceberg of this state propaganda offensive, designed to infiltrate our public institutions and  promote the military as benign – a clandestine strategy to up recruitment a time when public perception of the government’s adventuristic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in falling levels of recruitment.militarisation 2

The government has established Armed Forces Community Covenants – essentially a contract to which 500 Local Authorities, including Edinburgh, have signed up whereby they must appoint an Armed Forces Champion and actively support Armed Forces Days and promote the military across the local Voluntary Sector. Likewise with Armed Forces Corporate Covenants corporations pledge to take part in Armed Forces Days and promote themselves as Armed Forces friendly.

Recruitment Agenda Behind Military Activities in Schools

The armed forces make around 11,000 visits to secondary schools and colleges in the UK each year. The MoD’s 2011 Youth Engagement Review states that armed forces activities in schools “should have two clear Defence outcomes: An awareness of the Armed Forces’ role in the world and the quality of its work and people, in order to ensure the continued support of the population; and recruitment of the young men and women that are key to future sustainment and success’.” In these visits the military gives a one-sided, sanitised picture of life in the Forces. They do not look at the reality of killing, normalising military solutions to conflict and discouraging consideration of alternatives to war. They run fun career activities but provide no information on the real risks of military service.

The Department for Education’s ‘military ethos’ programme encompasses a initiatives which claim to give, ‘young people the opportunity to develop teamwork, self-discipline, and leadership’. The government has spent over £45 million on military ethos projects since 2012. The MoD spends around £26 million each year on school Combined Cadet Force (CCF) units and is expanding the number CCF units to all schools that want them with preference to disadvantaged schools. It plans to expand from 350 units to 500 by 2020. Although Cadets are not directly embedded in schools in Scotland as such Cadets Scotland have formed a partnership with schools which will enable them to enlist students.

Troops to Teachers is a scheme to encourage ex‐forces personnel to become teachers. Ex‐forces who train as teachers are paid a salary while they study and pay no tuition fees. Those who already have a degree only have to study for a further year and those who have no degree only have to study for 2 years. “Alternative provision” is for ‘pupils who are disengaged with education or at risk of becoming disengaged’. Providers include Challenger Troop and Commando Joe, which run military‐style, military‐uniformed outdoor activities for pupils in school time. They also offer school or class‐wide activities for both primary and secondary schools.

Military academies and free schools: The government encourages academies and free schools to be sponsored by a part of the military such as the Reserves and Cadet Associations. Such schools would have a high proportion of ex-forces staff and military-led activities for students. Currently, only University Technical Colleges, for 14‐18 year olds, are sponsored by either the Army or Navy.

In the Army “Soldiers to Schools” programme “trained soldiers” who are “experts” “on what it means to be a soldier” provide direct support to First World War lessons in Secondary Schools” and can make “comparisons and contrasts between the Army of 1914–1918 and of today.” This suggests soldiers will explain how much better things are now. Themes include camaraderie, teamwork and the importance of leadership in the Army and individual leadership development. Soldiers also accompany every school group visiting First World War battlefields as part of David Cameron’s £50million centenary commemorations.

The UK is the only country in NATO that recruits 16 & 17 year olds to the military. Recruits are required to sign contracts that lock them in for up to six years, as opposed to standard four year contracts. They come disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds and of those recruited under 18 who subsequently served in Afghanistan were twice as likely to experience PTSD, relationship problems, substance abuse and to commit suicide. Though they must sign up with parental permission under 18s can commit to train to kill but cannot legally drink or even vote.

We need to ask questions like: Is there ever a justification for recruiting children to the armed services? Should the Department for Education be promoting a military ethos in schools and turning to military style discipline as an answer to educational problems? Why do we have an Armed Forces Day annually, and should government funds be spent on promoting war as Family entertainment?

What Can We Do?

The Forces Watch Military Activities in Schools briefing suggests actions you can take:

The Peace and Justice Centre is committed to opposing this “New Tide of Militarism”. We stock Forces Watch briefings and reports and can provide speakers. Parents may want to approach schools to challenge any of these activities. Anyone interested in joining a Challenging Militarization of Youth Working Group is invited to contact the Peace and Justice Centre.


Various Forces Watch Briefings are available: and from the Peace and Justice Centre.

David Gee. Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting the Culture of Militarism available from Forces Watch or to borrow or buy from the Peace and Justice Centre.

The Unseen March. A film produced by Quakers. View at:

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