HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc8-9
5. Tony Cunningham (Workington)

What measures the Ministry of Defence is taking to promote the armed forces to students in school. [76697]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

All three services have school presentation teams and careers advisers who, between them, last year undertook visits to over 4,600 schools. Their purpose is to raise awareness of, and provide information on, careers opportunities in the armed forces. In addition, a schools adviser team has been operating since November 2001, using a trial presentation to raise awareness among year 10 pupils of the role played by the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence at home and abroad.

Tony Cunningham

As a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme linked with the RAF—I know that other hon. Members involved are also in their places—I am very aware of the tremendous role that the armed forces play. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that the initiatives that he mentions are linked to the national curriculum?

Mr. Ingram

As a graduate of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, I am always pleased to hear it getting a plug. I encourage more right hon. and hon. Members to participate in that excellent scheme.

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is important that our involvement in schools benefits both teachers and students. The schools presentation team has designed material to fit in around the national curriculum, using real-life experiences in the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces. We are developing that material with the DFES and its counterparts in Scotland and Wales, and working with teachers and schools to help ensure that it is useful and relevant to their needs. This is a very good example of Departments working together at national and local level to ensure that students, teachers and the Ministry of Defence benefit from the work.

David Burnside (South Antrim)

Will the Minister give us his experience of any similarities or differences in promoting the armed forces to students in schools in Northern Ireland, especially during the period when Martin McGuinness was Minister of Education?

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to go back some time in my experience. I was not wholly conscious of such a process taking place in schools in Northern Ireland, but there is no reason why it should not. That would be a very good indication of the normalcy that we all hoped would apply in Northern Ireland. I shall consider the matter to see whether there are any differences in Northern Ireland and exactly what we are doing there.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)

In view of the significant under-representation of ethnic minorities in the armed forces, what special initiatives have been taken to recruit ethnic minority students into the armed forces, and what success has there been to date?

Mr. Ingram

A number of important initiatives have been taken to address this key issue. We are beginning to achieve a measure of success, although we are not achieving the percentage that we had hoped for in the overall numbers of ethnic community members joining the armed forces. None the less, we are beginning to see an upward trend. That is based on using good exemplars in key areas in London and other parts of England to look at areas where we can draw from those communities. Members of ethnic communities who join the armed forces give top-class service and become good exemplars in their communities.

Forward to