Arms dealers are having an increasing influence in schools

BAE Systems is Britain’s largest defence company and the third largest arms firm in the world, with 95 per cent of its business military-related.

The company has visited more than 400 schools across the UK and produced lessons for children as young as seven years old, prompting critics to describe its access as a “moral disgrace”.

Other arms multinationals teaching children include LeonardoThales and US company Raytheon, which has made smart bombs in Fife linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen.

An aim of Scottish Enterprise – the Scottish Government’s business arm – is to increase the aerospace, defence, marine and security sectors in Scotland by between six and 10 per cent by 2020.

A key part of the strategy is to encourage more young people to choose careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, aka STEM.

But critics of the arms trade have questioned the motives of arms dealers teaching children, arguing they are trying to sanitise war in the pursuit of profit.

As part of its nationwide “roadshow” last year BAE Systems visited Scots primary and secondary schools and its website offers history lessons on subjects such as World War One and the Cold War.

BAE Systems roadshow visited 420 schools including Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy High School, Davidson Mains Primary School in Edinburgh, and Dumbarton Academy.

The firm has a website entitled BAE Systems UK Education which offers ‘Resources for Teachers‘ heavily slanted on the military.

Under the heading, “Inspired Heritage Worksheets” – alongside a photo of Sir Winston Churchill – there are various lessons on WW1 including “Spitfires”, “Women and Munitions” and “Landships and Tanks”.

section on the Cold War asks children to look at a picture of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by America, while posing the question: “If you were a Russian, what would you think?”

In 2014, BAE Systems held a competition for eight Glasgow schools and five in Rosyth, in a challenge to design a new aircraft carrier.

Meanwhile, the firms’ Eurofighter and Tornado jets have been used in Yemen’s war where at least 10,000 people have died, amid mounting allegations of war crimes by a Saudi-led coalition using UK warplanes dropping smart bombs made in Scotland.

Yemen’s crisis was laid out on stark terms last week to the UN general assemblywhen 14 groups – including Save the Children, Oxfam and Mercy Corps – detailed the gravity of the situation.

They said: “After almost four years of conflict, and despite all efforts to halt displacement, hunger and disease, Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. The suffering inflicted on Yemeni people is entirely man-made and will continue to deteriorate rapidly on all fronts without actions to end the violence.

“Attacks on schools and hospitals continue, with over 1,800 schools directly impacted by the conflict, including more than 1,500 that have been damaged or destroyed and 21 used by armed groups.”

Raytheon, which has a factory in Glenrothes making laser systems for bombs used in Yemen, has just re-launched a drone making competition for schools in Fife.

Raytheon’s factory is the US arms giant’s UK centre for smart bombs. But the firm has been linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen after remnants of bombs were found after civilian sites were bombed.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch said remnants of a bomb at the scene of an alleged war crime revealed it was a “Mk-82 500-lb bomb with a UK-manufactured Paveway laser guidance kit”.

The report said: “Markings on the fragments show that Raytheon produced the bomb in the United Kingdom, at the Pinnacle Hill Industrial Estate in Kelso, Scotland.”

In the US, Raytheon has been targeting Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs of America with a view to building its future workforce.

Its website said: “In 2016, Boys & Girls Clubs of America initiated a thought leadership forum that convened public and private leaders to create a road map for reaching the high percentage of military youth who live off of military bases.

“The organisation’s ‘Better Together: Military Public-Private Partnership’ program launched with a mission to identify ‘STEM-ready’ military youth who are interested in pursuing post-secondary STEM related careers.”

Last October, The Ferret revealed that Raytheon and BAE were among wealthy arms multinationals who had received collectively more than £7m of taxpayers’ money via grants from Scottish Enterprise.

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