Countering Militarism in Welsh Schools

(Reposted from: Cymdeithas y Cymod.  June 21, 2023)

WELSH peace movement Cymdeithas y Cymod (the Fellowship of Reconciliation) has been concerned about military input into schools for some time and has worked with others — the Peace Pledge Union, Forces Watch and Quakers in Britain — to raise awareness of this issue and what can be done about it.

Our main areas of concern include the fact that Britain is the only country in Europe that recruits 16-year-olds to the armed forces; the use of recruitment activities in schools, aimed at 16-17-year-olds and often largely targeted at poorer areas; visits by weapons companies such as BAE systems, Raytheon and Rolls-Royce to schools, which lack transparency.

In response to Cymdeithas y Cymod’s petition to stop the military recruiting in schools, one of the Welsh government’s recommendations was to put guidelines in place for schools when organising military visits, but nothing has happened about this.

Cymdeithas y Cymod and the Peace Pledge Union have therefore drawn up a set of guidelines to be circulated to schools, and these can be seen at www.mstar.link/Cymod.

The main recommendations are that schools and local authorities:

  • Give prior notice of any military visits to pupils and parents and provide an enriching alternative for students who do not want to participate;
  • Actively ensure the risks of joining the armed forces are adequately explained, especially for 15-18-year-olds;
  • Identify and discuss the political issues raised by visits by the military, and by weapons companies, and enable critical thinking by providing opposing viewpoints;
  • Encourage pupils — in line with the new Welsh curriculum — to approach presentations regarding prospective careers with an open and inquiring mind, critically exploring the impact of potential career choices on their health and wellbeing;
  • Use national events such as Remembrance and Armed Forces Day to enable reflection and avoid glorifying war;
  • Use curriculum opportunities to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, including conflict resolution and peace-building skills;
  • Support children and young people to become global citizens, critical thinkers and active peacemakers by joining the Wales Peace Schools Scheme.

All local authorities in Wales have an Armed Forces Champion, but no corresponding role to promote peace and reconciliation, which are so important for reducing levels of violence in society. As part of a new Peace in Action project, the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales will lobby local authorities across Wales asking them to appoint a Peace Champion who would promote peace education and ways of solving conflict non-violently.

If you live in Wales, we urge you to contact your local school leaders, governors, and local authority and ask them to discuss and adopt the above guidelines — also to appoint a Peace Champion. Please let us know of any responses you receive by emailing cymdeithasycymod@gmail.com.

To find out more visit www.cymdeithasycymod.cymru.

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