Resolution at National Union of Teachers conference, 2008: War

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Conference reaffirms existing Union policies which:

1. Call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
2. Oppose military action or intervention in Iran.

The Global Campaign for Education have reported that over half of the children out of school are now living in countries where there are wars taking place. Conference notes with particular concern the huge refugee crisis within and beyond Iraq’s borders, one consequence of which is the impossibility of education for most learners of all ages.

Further, Conference also notes that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the banishment of 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands. This unresolved injustice entrenches many opponents of the world’s most militarised states in a conviction that real peace, democracy and equality are not what those powers aspire to in these more recent conflicts. Conference congratulates those members that have established sustainable twinning arrangements with schools in Palestine, and encourages more to do likewise.

Conference further notes two respects in which schools are being asked to play a partisan role in war.

The first is via the development of Key Stage 4 classroom teaching materials, produced by Kids Connections, a children's marketing agency, working for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and published at In the particular section for English ‘Writing to Argue’ information is presented largely from the MOD’s point of view. (For example there are no figures for the dead, wounded, homeless or refugees). This would impinge on many schools’ commitment to peace and equality contained in their mission statements, and also breach the 1996 Education Act (Section 56 paras 406 and 407), unless teachers contribute additional materials to achieve the balanced views of such topics required by law. Conference supports the Union raising these matters with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Conference welcomes the Secretary of State’s response to the Union making clear that the DCSF does not endorse any resources or materials and that the issues raised by the Union in relation to sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Education Act are being taken up with the Ministry of Defence.

The second is via the exploitation of schools for recruitment by the armed forces. Precisely because unpopular recent wars have contributed to a decline in volunteers all branches of the military are upgrading their methods of recruitment. Again, military intervention in schools customarily presents a partisan view of war, largely by ignoring its fatal realities in favour of promises of travel, skill training and further or higher education course sponsorships otherwise often unavailable to young people, especially in areas of high unemployment.

It is important that young people should be empowered to make an informed choice about whether to enlist in the armed forces based on an accurate and full appraisal of all relevant matters.

Conference believes that teachers and schools should not be conduits for the dissemination of MoD propaganda.

Conference notes that the publication of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust report ‘Informed Choice’ into how the armed forces practice recruitment in the United Kingdom has alarming implications for teachers, and for the students they teach. In particular, it notes that military life is frequently glamorised, and the risks of a military career downplayed.

Conference therefore:

(i) Congratulates colleagues in the Educational Institute of Scotland for their decision in 2007 to oppose military recruitment in Scottish schools;
(ii) Agrees to support teachers and schools in opposing Ministry of Defence recruitment activities that are based upon misleading propaganda;
(iii) Agrees to participate in protests should military action be taken against Iran by US and/or UK forces.

Conference therefore instructs the Executive to:

a. Produce professional advice for members, mindful of the existing legal guidelines, on their obligations under the 1996 Education Act and the Union’s own Code of Professional Ethics.

b. Seek to work with a range of organisations, in the context of the longstanding commitment of the Union to peace and disarmament, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), to produce appropriate material on peace and militarisation. In addition the Union should work with a range of organisations to produce appropriate materials dealing with the Middle East. Further, the Union should purchase and circulate to divisions the most recent trades union education pack produced by the PSC in conjunction with Unison, Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS);

c. Convene a summit of teachers, educationalists, campaigners, including the Stop the War Coalition, and other appropriate bodies to consider the issue of military recruitment in schools, to assist in the development of appropriate advice, consistent with the legal and moral responsibilities of teachers and schools.

d. Campaign for outreach to young people by military organisations to be de-linked from recruitment activities;

e. Campaign for young people to have the right: not to attend promotional events organised by the military; to hear from a speaker promoting alternative points of view; to have education for peace embedded in the curriculum along with education about the military;

f. Defend the rights of teachers not to take part in activities promoting military recruitment, or which they feel present a partisan view of war and life in the military;

g. Publicise the positive benefits of twinning and educational visits to Palestine, and to encourage more schools and teachers to take part.

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