Greens oppose the militarisation underlying cadet unit expansion

Even though Tony Ransley raised the issue we’ve been slow in picking up on the government’s intention, announced at its early October conference, to fund 150 new cadet units for state schools, with the first 25 due to be launched in the next 12 months. To its credit the Green Party has stepped into the fray, calling on the Tories to stop expanding cadet units and to raise the minimum recruitment age for the military to 18. Its opposition has been prompted by a report, The Recruitment of Children by the UK Armed Forces : A Critique from Health Professionals, produced by Medact.


In this report, we set out the health case for banning the recruitment of children into the UK armed forces, and raising the minimum recruitment age to at least 18 years with immediate effect. Our case is broadly based on two main concerns:
First: Those recruited into the armed forces as children have a greater chance of being deployed on the frontline and suffering from long-term physical and mental health problems when compared to those recruited as adults.
Second: The current practices of the UK armed forces for recruiting children do not meet the criteria for ‘voluntary and informed consent’.

For my part the strong case the authors make is over-reliant on a particular cognitive, ‘neuro-scientific’ interpretation of adolescence, but this does not detract from their conclusion that 16- and 17-year-olds are more vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, death, self-harm and substance abuse during an armed forces career compared with adult recruits or that the recruitment marketing approach is designed to portrays military life as glamorous, falling short of a true picture of life in the forces.

Coming from a sociological rather than medical perspective Janet Batsleer’s important, Youth Work and the Military Ethos, develops a complementary concern about the militarisation of work with young people and its deep contradictions. “The general discourse of moral elevation and virtue associated with the military cannot be sustained in the face of evidence concerning the actual mixed experience of military life ……. the levels of rape (one a week) and sexual assault reported within the services.”

It is worth reminding ourselves of the rationale set out on the DfE web site in 2014.

• Our ambition is for pupils to use the benefits of a military ethos, such as self-discipline
and teamwork, to achieve an excellent education which will help them shape their own
• Promoting military ethos in schools helps foster confidence, self-discipline and self esteem whilst developing teamwork and leadership skills. Past experience from both the
military and education sector has demonstrated how these core values help pupils to
reach their academic potential and become well-rounded and accomplished adults fully
prepared for life beyond school.
• We are already working to bring military ethos into our education system to help raise
standards and tackle issues such as behaviour. This includes:
• Expansion of the school-based cadets to create around 100 more units by 2015.
• Delivering the Troops to Teachers programme, which aims to increase the number of
Service Leavers making the transition to teaching.
• Promoting alternative provision with a military ethos.

In criticising and resisting this military push Janet seeks to draw on the tradition of democratic education, including youth work and informal education, arguing for a response, which “will include an engagement with ideas of international voluntary service as a completely different practice from military service. ‘Service Civile’ was introduced in many European countries after the Second World War as a peace-making alternative to national military service. We need to emphasise again global connections in our practice and to strengthen emphasis on the disciplines and virtues involved in co-operation. Democratic informal education traditions cherish questioning and critical enquiry, even dissent. And dissent requires character, organisation and discipline, but dissident associations which can offer alternatives to the present denigration and abandonment of young people are not likely to have a ‘military ethos.’ Militarised culture has many attractions, but these attractions, including adventure, challenge and team-building have long been part of alternative co-operative education traditions too. The Woodcraft Folk movement still uses the outdoors and camping as an important vehicle for learning co-operation and for building the international co-operative movement for summer camps.”

And in pursuing this argument I wonder how critical friends like Tony Ransley from the Scouts understand the Cadets initiative.and its relationship to what we often refer to as ‘the uniformed youth organisations’. If I’m remembering correctly Baden-Powell was resolutely against the use of military drills in the Boy Scouts.


  1. Hi Tony

    Typically this has come up at when i am struggling to finish a university essay before Wednesday so my initial comments must be brief.

    Militarism has historically been a subject of much debate within Scouting. Baden-Powell said a lot of things over a long period of time, many of which ended up cancelling each other out. His initial aim appears to have been to produce self motivated young citizens, capable of rescuing children from burning buildings or defending their communities by forming peoples militia as circumstances required and their individual consciences allowed. I am presently researching Scout Resistance Armies during WW2.

    HOWEVER this is Historical.

    The present Movement in the UK consists of Hundreds of Residential Camp Sites/ Activity Centres, Thousands of Youth Centres/ Scout Huts, Tens of Thousands of Voluntary Youth Workers providing the same team work, adventure and challenge Right Wingers claim the Cadets offer and the Left claim for the Woodcraft volk. The problem being opting to be funded by local communities rather than siding with strong political patrons our work has been consistently marginalised by both the left and the right..

    In the past Scout HQ has expressed concern about both The NCS and The Cadet Expansion Scheme and as an individual I am opposed to both as i believe they compete with true voluntary youth organisations and weaken local communities by making them more dependant on centralised funding.

  2. I believe the Scout Association’s position on the MOD Cadets is it acknowledges their existence.


    I do not think they offer anything to the community that a properly funded and supported voluntary sector could not offer..

    They offer nothing to the communities defence and I believe there is evidence that recruiting at a very early age is counterproductive.

    I don.t understand a Government which at a time of “finical crisis” has subsidise uniforms and activities for public school cadets but reduced spending on the youth counselling, mental health and specialist support the voluntary sector need to serve young people effectively.

    I also agree with Baden Powell and T.E. Lawrence that drill purpose is to reduce a group of people to the lowest common denominater and make their performance, measurable and predictable, Its not necessary in youth work It’s not necessary in the community and incidentally it could prove fatal in modern warfare. .

  3. Tony – Many thanks for these initial and challenging thoughts, especially your sense that neither the Left nor the Right has acknowledged seriously the contribution of the Scout Movement across the diversity of its settings and activities. Would you mind if I copied your observations on to the IDYW Facebook page?

    • I site the references to modern scouting in J. Batsleer’s Youth Work and the Military Ethos as an example.

  4. No problem, at present I do not do face book so can only reply on here but take it that from now on you do not need to ask unless I state comments are not for facebook.

    Also I need to stress my views are my own NOT those of the Scout Association.

    Tony could I ask you to E mail me using the address I am now using as there are some questions about posting articles on your site I would like to ask.

    Thanks Tony R

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