Britain: Teachers threaten boycott over military recruitment in schools

British teachers are to launch a campaign against military recruitment campaigns which employ "misleading propaganda" in schools. The National Union of Teachers vowed on 25 March 2008 to back any school staff who want to boycott armed forces recruitment campaigns, according to an article published in The Guardian on 26 March 2008.

The NUT is concerned that some lesson materials prepared with MoD backing undermine schools' legal duty to present controversial issues to children in a balanced way. The NUT's leadership revealed it had complained to the education secretary, Ed Balls, about the issue.

One worksheet supplied by the MoD and designed by a private marketing company, Kids Connections, describes the UK force's efforts in Iraq as mainly aimed at "helping the Iraqis to rebuild their country after the conflict and years of neglect".

It describes the work the armed forces have done in security and reconstruction, and notes the 2005 democratic elections. But union officials said it failed to mention the US-led invasion, Iraqi civilian deaths and that no weapons of mass destruction were found.

The union backed a motion committing the NUT to "support teachers and schools in opposing Ministry of Defence recruitment activities that are based upon misleading propaganda".

Steve Sinnott, NUT's General Secretary, commented in an article posted on the NUT website: "Earlier this year the Joseph Rowntree Trust published a report on military recruitment in schools. It is well written and its conclusions are sound. It is clear from the Rowntree report that the MOD is encouraging a number of very questionable practices which teachers have expressed concerns about for some time. At this year’s NUT conference those concerns were expressed. Indeed, at least one ex-member of the military took part in the debate. Professional concerns were articulated.

It has to be a concern that apparently the MOD focus disproportionately on schools in the most disadvantaged areas in what is clearly a marketing exercise to stimulate interest in a career in the military. It is proper for teachers to raise for public debate the fact that youngsters with some of the most limited career opportunities are being targeted for careers which may turn out to be the most risky."

Sources: The Guardian, 26 March 2008, Steve Sinnott: Going over the top, 31 March 2008.