Government wants the military to run state schools

The Armed Forces will be drafted in to run state schools under plans to drive up discipline and respect in classrooms.

Ministers are in talks with defence chiefs about taking over a handful of schools and turning them into military academies.

Alongside daily lessons, pupils would be expected to take part in activities such as drills, uniformed parades, weapons handling and adventure training.

The first state schools set to gain ‘military academy’ status are understood to be based in Portsmouth and Colchester.

The controversial scheme will initially be in areas where there are a large number of military families, but is set to be rolled out across the country.

Ministers believe that children in failing schools would particularly benefit from a military-style education because it would give them role models and a more structured existence.

But the plan is likely to raise fears among teaching unions that the academies could turn into tough ‘boot camps’ or recruiting stations.

Last year, union leaders accused the Army of giving children ‘misleading propaganda’ about life in the Armed Forces.

The National Union of Teachers also vowed to back any teachers who wanted to boycott the services’ recruitment drives.

The latest idea comes as the Government prepares to launch a major extension of the ‘school cadet force’ scheme in deprived areas.

Gordon Brown is a strong supporter of the military’s involvement in schools, which he believes teaches young people discipline and pride their country.

The first academy school dedicated entirely to the Armed Forces was announced last week, giving the Ministry of Defence a role in state education for the first time.

The Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover, which offers boarding places for the children of military personnel, will also offer 200 extra places to youngsters from non-military backgrounds.

But senior Whitehall sources have revealed that the Army is looking at taking over a secondary state school in Portsmouth, while the Parachute Regiment is considering running a secondary school in Colchester.

Last night, critics of the scheme cast doubts over whether the over- stretched Armed Forces have the funding or resources to take on extra educational responsibilities.

The sources also stressed that no pupil would be forced to take part in any activity against their will.

One said: ‘This is not about teaching pupils to shoot people. The Armed Forces can be a force for good in our schools and teach important skills including teamwork and respect.’

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: ‘Academy status for the Duke of York’s is ideal and will mean they can continue to march to the beat of their own drum by retaining their military ethos and curriculum.

‘I hope this is just the beginning of an even closer relationship between our Armed Forces and schools, particularly with providing boarding facilities for those families who are often on the move and in garrison town communities.’

However, David Laws, Liberal Democrat Education spokesman, called the policy ‘yet another Labour gimmick’.

‘While many schools would no doubt benefit from a dose of Army discipline, there is real doubt as to whether this is a clear policy or just another Gordon Brown gimmick,’ he said.

‘Hazel Blears recently warned against Government gimmicks but it seems as though the Prime Minister has yet to take note.’
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