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[] LDT 4.11.01: UK: MoD takes military campaign to schools,

MoD takes military campaign to schools 
By Chris Hastings
(Filed: 04/11/2001) 

DEFENCE chiefs are to combat anti-war feeling in schools by launching a new initiative aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Britain's schoolchildren.

The Ministry of Defence is to appoint a schools adviser to increase awareness of the Armed Forces among staff and pupils. The adviser will head a series of "defence presentation teams" which will go into schools and lobby for the military. 

A vital component of the new initiative will be the publication of defence-related material that can be used as part of the national curriculum. There will also be a new MoD website which will be aimed specifically at secondary schools.

An advertisement for the new job, which details how "the MOD is looking to increase its activity with schools and colleges", has appeared in a number of specialist publications. 

The timing of the appointment has been seized upon by critics who claim that it is an attempt to bolster what they say is flagging public support for military action in Afghanistan.

Paul Marsden, the Labour MP who has infuriated his own party whips by voicing opposition to the military action, last night condemned the new appointment as an "outrageous" waste of money. 

He said: "I am not against Army recruiting officers going into schools and trying to sell the Army as a career. But we are talking about something very different here. You have to question the timing of something like this.

"Should we really be wasting taxpayers' money on what is essentially a spin doctor for schools? I think teachers and parents would much prefer it if this money was spent on books. 

Alastair Campbell has already established a network of international spin centres and now we have this attempt to indoctrinate children."

Supporters of the appointment, however, said it was a long overdue move. They feel the MoD has lost out to groups such as CND which have regular contact with schools through their own information officers.

The initiative was welcomed by David Clark, a former Labour Party defence spokesman, who is now chairman of the Atlantic Council of Great Britain which was set up to promote Nato among children.

He said: "It will not be brainwashing. Children today are far too intelligent for that. They can get information from a number of sources and compare the information they get from the Army with other information points."

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