CONCERNS have been raised over the number of military visits to schools after it was revealed that the armed forces have made more than 200 trips to Capital schools and colleges in the space of two years.
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that state secondary schools in Edinburgh were visited by the forces – the army, RAF and/or Royal Navy – an average of seven times since September 2010.
In all, the armed forces made a total of 225 visits to 33 schools – state and independent – and colleges over the last two years.
Balerno High School experienced the highest number of visits, with the armed forces visiting the school 22 times since September 2010, 18 of which were made by the army. The only school not on the list was Holy Rood High.
Some of the visits were for individual interviews, but the majority were for careers briefings, award evenings, curriculum support, presentations and team building events. Army spokeswoman Martine McNee said they only visited schools to which they had been invited did not visit to recruit but rather to be a “visible part of the community”.
She said: “We absolutely do not visit schools to which we have not been specifically invited.
“The army is part of, and has a large presence in the Scottish community, especially in a garrison city such as Edinburgh.
“It is disappointing that some people see the armed forces, and the army in particular, as an inappropriate organisation to visit schools.”
The figures were obtained by the Forces Watch pressure group, which is campaigning against military involvement in UK schools and colleges across the UK.
It will host a public discussion on whether the military should have a presence in Edinburgh’s schools at Augustine United Church tomorrow night, which will be attended, among others, by Green Party councillor Maggie Chapman.
Councillor Chapman said: “I think it is problematic for us as an education authority to be giving the military access to pupils as young as 14 or 15. The place for this type of recruitment is at careers fairs and in recruitment offices, not our schools.”
Meanwhile, Tina Woolnough, member of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said she hoped headteachers consulted with the parent councils about the visits as they “may be contentious for religious or moral reasons”.
She added: “When we held a careers event for pupils at our school, we asked that the armed forces presented themselves in a similar way to those who were talking about other kinds of careers – no banners, no videos, no overt marketing, just face-to-face information-giving to those pupils who actively sought information.”
A council spokeswoman added: “Career fairs play an important part in informing senior pupils about the opportunities available to them when they complete their education.
“The armed forces often participate, along with a wide range of companies and organisations.”