Education (Understanding the Armed Forces)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2001.

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Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham 2:30 pm, 29th October 2001

What measures he is taking to further understanding of the armed forces in schools.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Defence, and the skills and experiences of the armed forces in particular, have an important part to play in supporting education in schools. It is also important that young people—the voters and taxpayers of tomorrow—should have a general awareness of defence. We already do a lot of work with schools through our service presentation teams and the cadet forces, and by providing publications and other materials. We intend to expand that effort by increasing the number of teams, appointing a schools adviser in the Ministry of Defence, setting up a schools page on our website and developing material for teachers and pupils. All that will be linked into the curriculum.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham

I thank my hon. Friend for that response. I welcome the appointment of a schools adviser. Many, if not all, of us will know that teachers and schools are the first line, as they are the gateway to opportunities for our young people who are entering the world of work. However, can he reassure the House that this is not a one-off, isolated measure? Will he also reassure us that the Department for Education and Skills, together with the Ministry of Defence, is already taking steps to ensure that our young people recognise the value of our armed forces to society and to help with the recruitment of first-class youngsters to the armed forces—especially the Corps of Royal Engineers in my constituency?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Yes. I am delighted to say that, in addition to the measures that I have described, we also have a programme called outreach, in which cadet forces work with youngsters who may have problems in order to introduce them to life in the cadets. The programme has had remarkable success in producing recruits to the armed forces. We have also developed a concept called skill force, whereby experienced instructors visit schools and help kids with particular problems to develop self-esteem and a range of skills and abilities on which they would otherwise miss out. I assure my hon. Friend that we take a very close interest in the help that we can give schools and are always looking for ways in which we can add to it.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

Will the Minister outline what special initiatives have been taken since 11 September to capitalise for recruitment purposes on the very high profile of the armed forces?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

As I said, we have an on-going programme of development that involves an increase in the number of presentations made to schools. We have not considered it appropriate to take any further measures, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that interest in the armed forces remains very high.