PUPILS should be taught about the risks of joining the armed forces as part of any school careers visits, a Holyrood committee has ruled.
MSPs also want the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to publish details of visits to schools on an “ongoing basis”.
The calls came after an investigation by the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee into the impact of visits by the services.
The inquiry followed concerns that state schools in disadvantaged areas are being disproportionately targeted – and that pupils are not given a “balanced picture” of what could happen to them in the army.
A final report by the committee concluded that there was no evidence targeting of pupils in poorer areas was taking place.
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However, MSPs said information about visits to schools should be collected and published in future.
And they have also urged the Scottish Government to assess whether the materials targeted at schools are appropriate.
Committee convener Johann Lamont added: “A career in the armed forces is a legitimate choice, but it can be very different from many of the career options that young people consider.
“That is why we believe the Scottish Government should undertake an impact assessment to make sure the information being given to our young people is appropriate.
“It is also important that armed forces visits should reflect both the opportunities and the risks associated with a career in the armed forces.”
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A spokeswoman for the Army in Scotland said they provided personnel to visit schools only when specifically invited to do so by headteachers.
She added: “These visits provide assistance across the curriculum, including sport, fitness and wellbeing, leadership, teamwork and citizenship – not just careers presentations, which are given to the older pupils who have expressed an interest.
“We do not recruit children in schools. We do explain to older pupils, with the guidance of careers teachers, what a job in the Army entails and how to apply, should we be invited to do so.
“This is in line with other major employers who are invited to speak to pupils, who are deciding on their future careers and study options.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers would consider the recommendations carefully.
She added: “While it is up to schools and Local authorities to determine their involvement with the armed forces as employers, we would expect them to act responsibly and ensure that any participation with any organisation adds value, is appropriate to a child’s age and maturity and does not seek to exert undue or inappropriate influence.”
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Concerns were first raised in a petition submitted to Holyrood in March 2016 by ForcesWatch, which scrutinises the recruitment practices of the armed forces, and the Quakers in Scotland.
The committee heard evidence from the Scottish Youth Parliament’s submission that one school presentation was opened with music from the film Top Gun, which stars Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot.
The submission said: “It fictionalises what is at times a matter of life or death and glorifies killing.
“The presentation talked about the positives of being in the army, but didn’t address negative consequences.”
However, Brigadier Paul Buttery, head of training at the MoD, told the committee promotional videos highlighted a range of career opportunities in addition to combat including human resources, engineering and logistics.
He said: “There was no shying away from activities that individuals might be called on to do in the armed forces.
“Presentations are balanced and are part of a journey. When a potential recruit expresses an interest in joining, the roles of the armed forces and what we are here to do are made very clear to them.”
A total of 770 visits were made by the armed forces to schools in Scotland between April 2016 and March 2017 with a higher proportion in the state sector.
Source : HeraldScotland