Army website targets schools

10th August 2007 at 01:00
Military accused of using 'back door' methods to influence pupils with lesson plans about Iraq

THE MINISTRY of Defence has been accused of attempting "back door" recruitment in schools with the launch of a new website containing 40 defence-related lesson plans.

The lessons, accompanied by video and PowerPoint slides, promote different aspects of the armed forces that can be taught in science, maths, geography, English and PSHE and citizenship lessons.

A sample English lesson sets out a debate on the pros and cons of the Iraq war and the benefits of democracy. In one exercise, pupils are asked to analyse a mock newspaper article calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The site, called Defence Dynamics, has been developed by a marketing agency and replaces the MoD's pound;2.1 million Defence Schools Presentation Teams Project, in which members of the armed forces visited schools.

Critics of the new site, which calls itself "an interactive teaching resource for students aged 14 to 16" say it is a marketing tool. Other lessons are based on less controversial military topics such as mountain rescue and flooding.

The new website fits into related education schemes such as Skills Force, where former military personnel help cut truancy and underachievement in deprived areas. The Government has put pound;800,000 towards introducing the combined cadet force in six state schools.

Tali Janner-Klausner, 15, joint national convener for School Students Against the War, an offshoot of the Stop the War Coalition, last week took part in a picket of the marketing company that developed the new lesson plans.

"They know that going directly into schools is completely out of order, so they've adopted a more underhand method by going online," she said.

Victoria Elliott, an English teacher from West Yorkshire, said: "It doesn't take a media genius to spot the bias of the people writing these lessons."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "It sounds like a rather confused initiative. They should be upfront about what it's about. However, I don't think it is a particular cause for concern as I can't see teachers rushing to use it."

A spokeswoman for the MoD said the project was not to get pupils to join the military.

Kids Connections, the agency which developed the materials, also produces learning materials for a Renault road safety campaign, the Football Association and the RAC.

The Defence Dynamics scheme will initially run for two years, with a Pounds 200,000 first year budget.

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