SCOTLAND’S Children’s Commissioner will be asked for his view on armed forces’ visits to schools amid concerns they focus on pupils in deprived areas to attract young recruits.

Religious group Quakers in Scotland and military watchdog Forces Watch told MSPs the Army, Navy and Air Force “may be attempting to target students from more disadvantaged backgrounds”.

A submission to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee said: “Education Scotland said in 2015 that the Ministry of Defence had requested school deprivation data following an earlier attempt to obtain a database of sensitive student information for England in order to better target Army recruitment.

“In 2013 the Army stated that its schools careers advice ‘is often more tailored and directed to those at risk of disengaging with education or work or those who struggle academically’.”

The petitioners are seeking guidance on how school visits should be conducted to ensure more scrutiny as well as “political balance and offer a realistic representation of the role of the armed forces and what a career in the armed forces involves”.

They are also calling for public monitoring of the number and location of visits, the purpose and content of visits and comparison with the number of visits by other employers. In addition they also want parents to be consulted as to whether they are happy for their child to take part in armed forces’ activities at school.

Forces representatives regularly enter schools, with critics claiming they paint a glamorous picture of military life in a bid to boost recruitment, something the Ministry of Defence denies. The petition calls for the Scottish Government to ensure information presented to children offers “a realistic representation of the role of the armed forces and what a career in the armed forces involves.”

Committee convener Johann Lamont said MSPs should ask the Scottish Government and councils for their views.

“I can see in some localities with a strong connection to the Army individual schools might be very keen on this but in other areas there is less of a connection,” she said. “We would also want to contact the Army, in terms of their careers service, for their response to the petition.”

The committee may also contact Skills Development Scotland for their view, she added.

Lamont added: “The Children and Young People’s Commissioner and the Scottish Youth Parliament may have a view on this. This is a list that we can expand because we’re really trying to get the information and sense of where people are with this.

“There is a dilemma between particular communities being targeted, but also recognising that some young people can potentially get good employment outcomes from making an active choice to go into the armed forces.

“We need to get a sense of what that looks like, what the safeguards are and the extent to which it is not being targeted at particular communities.”

Emma Sangster, ForcesWatch coordinator welcomed the work the committee was to do on the issue and said there was a need for more transparency, guidance and oversight relating to military visits to schools.

“We welcome the fact the Committee wishes to take our petition forward and seek the views of other stakeholders over military visits, especially student, parents and teacher organisations, local authorities and indeed the military itself,” she said.

“There are a number of points to address here – around the process of recruitment in schools and access to children within the education system for this purpose, the rights of pupils and parents, the number and distribution of military visits and who has overall authority over such visits.”