A Cbeebies presenter fronted the ‘deadly business’ of promoting arms sales in UK schools

CBeebies logo and a UK fighter plane
Fréa Lockley

A report by the Observer has revealed that arms manufacturers spent millions targeting children as young as four in UK schools. One used a children’s TV star to promote its wares in the classroom. While another created a “missile simulator” for children to “play with”.

Meanwhile, the weapons made by these companies are killing thousands of innocent people – including children – in conflicts around the world.

Lesson plans?

As the Observer reported, arms companies who have made tens of billions selling weapons to human rights abusing governments, sponsor events and lessons in schools. They also promote the creation and sale of weapons and the defence sector as a whole.

In February 2017, BAE Systems, the world’s fourth-largest arms manufacturer, proudly showed Cbeebies presenter Maddie Moate “inspiring” children at one of its roadshow events:

This was just one of 420 visits to schools in the UK where it offered lesson plans for “children as young as seven”. BAE also offers children aged 14 to 16 the opportunity to take part in work experience.

As Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) explain, BAE builds and sells “fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, missiles and small arms ammunition”. These are used in deadly conflicts around the world:

BAE’s warplanes are playing a central role in Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen. Its armoured vehicles were used by Saudi Arabia in Bahrain to support the repression of democracy protests in 2011.

On 9 August, a Saudi-led coalition bomb, supplied by Lockheed Martin, hit a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 children and 11 adults. This was just the latest tragedy in a brutal war that is, according to the UN, the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world. 

BAE’s promotional material shows that in 2013 alone, it allocated £76.3 million targeting children and young people from the age of four to 21 promoting “Education” and “Learning” impacts.

As the Green Party co-leader pointed out, this isn’t ‘education’. It’s a deliberate attempt to normalise “their deadly business”:

Other Twitter users asked an important question. Do parents know what’s going on?:

“No scruples, no morals no shame”

BAE Systems is just one of the groups targeting children. As the Observer reported:

  • “Raytheon, the fourth-largest arms company in the world, which has sold bombs and missiles to Israel and Saudi Arabia and whose weapons have been used in Yemen, runs an annual competition across the UK for pupils to build model drones”.
  • “Thales, the world’s 10th-largest arms company, whose customers include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Kazakhstan” creates lesson plans and resources for teachers. It also “sponsors the Big Bang Fair” and designed a missile simulator as “a new activity for children to play with… [to] inspire them to consider engineering for a future career”.
  • Rolls-Royce, who build engines for military aircraft “sponsors a Cub scientist activity badge for the Scout Association”.

It doesn’t end there. Italian company Leonardo, the world’s 9th largest arms company, has sold drones to Pakistan, armoured vehicles to Oman and helicopters to Algeria, Libya and Turkey. It also works in UK schools. Its website states it “actively supports education and skills development through partnerships with schools, colleges and universities”.

As one Twitter user stated, these companies have “no scruples, no morals, no shame”:

No defence

As CAAT’s Andrew Smith explained, schools should cut all links with arms companies:

The fact that companies that arm and support human-rights-abusing regimes are targeting such young children is extremely concerning.

Arms companies aren’t targeting schools because they care about education. They are doing it because they want to improve their reputations and normalise their appalling business.

Smith is right. Companies who profit from death and destruction have absolutely no place in schools. And there’s absolutely no defence for a children’s TV ‘star’ to join in with this sick collaboration.

Get Involved

– Write to your local MP to demand an end to UK arms sales.

– Support Campaign Against Arms Trade.

– Read more of the Canary’s coverage of Saudi Arabia and the crisis in Yemen.

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured images via bbcfour/Wikimedia and SSGT AARON D. ALLMON II, CHARLESTON AFB S.C./Wikimedia


We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed

Fréa Lockley