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Peace Pledge Union to attend teachers' union annual conference

Peace Pledge Union to attend teachers' union annual conference

The Peace Pledge Union will be meeting teachers from across England and Wales at the annual conference of the National Education Union. They will be discussing shared concerns over the growing influence of armed forces and arms companies in education.

The PPU will also be promoting their educational resources and listening to teachers' concerns and questions. Delegates at the conference in Liverpool on Sunday 14th to Wednesday 17th April are encouraged to visit the PPU at Stand 12. 

The National Education Union (NEU) was formed by a merger of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). The PPU first attended the NUT conference two years ago, which marked the launch of the PPU Teachers' Network. 

As teachers worry about cuts to education budgets, the government has spent over £45 million on schemes that use a "military ethos" in schools, supposedly to engage "disengaged" young people. 

As many youth services and community projects are cut, the government has committed well over £50 million to the Cadet Expansion Programme, aimed at increasing the number of cadet forces in state schools to 500 by 2020. Following the initial funding for the Programme in 2012, the number of cadet forces in state schools more than doubled between 2012 and 2016. 

Meanwhile, research published in 2018 revealed the extent to which arms companies such as BAE Systems are running programmes in schools, often in the guise of promoting interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 213,000 young people have seen a roadshow run by BAE since 2005, with their materials used by children as young as seven. But while schools in the UK are presented with a positive image of BAE Systems, schools in Yemen have been bombed by the Saudi forces that BAE supplies.  

The Peace Pledge Union is increasingly hearing from students, teachers and parents who are worried about these trends. Like the PPU, they do not believe that military-style programmes, underpinned by an ethos requiring obedience to authority, will help young people to become autonomous, responsible and peaceful citizens. Education should develop critical awareness and school students should be able to explore ways of resolving disputes without resorting to violence.

But there is good news: more and more people are taking action in their own schools and communities. A number of schools are turning to the PPU and other groups to provide a balance to the military visits and one-sided image of the armed forces that the government aims to promote. Sales of the White Poppies for Schools pack rose significantly last year. 

It is teachers, students and parents who can reverse the growing militarisation of British schools. The Peace Pledge Union is standing in solidarity with them. We look forward to discussing these complex but vital issues with delegates at the National Education Union conference next week.