One arms manufacturer developed a missile simulator for children to play with. Another provided classroom workshops which encouraged youngsters to think how camouflage could provide “advantages on the battlefield”. On one occasion, a CBeebies presenter was hired to appear at a school roadshow.
The activities are aimed at children as young as four, the study by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) shows.
The companies – which make billions selling their deadly products to governments, including some with poor human rights records, around the world – say getting involved in schools is vital for the UK to produce the next generation of engineers. They say their materials are designed to excite youngsters by the possibilities of the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.
“When these companies are promoting themselves in British schools, you can bet they are not talking about how their missiles and bombs have actually destroyed schools in Yemen,” Andrew Smith of CAAT told The Independent.
“Arms companies aren’t spending money in schools because they care about education or young people. They are doing it because they want to improve their reputations and normalise what they do.”
One of its roadshows included an appearance by CBeebies presenter Maddie Moate. The company says it has 845 “ambassadors” – comprised mainly of school governors – across the UK.
A spokeswoman said: “As a world leader in advanced engineering and technology, our education and skills activities inspire the next generation of engineers to help address the critical skills gap. We invest in a diverse portfolio of programmes aimed at encouraging more young people to study STEM subjects, which is vital for the UK economy.”
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