An arms firm linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen has been allowed to teach in schools on 81 occasions over the past two years, The Ferret can reveal.

US multinational Raytheon is the world’s fourth largest arms company. The firm employs 700 people at a factory in Glenrothes, Fife, where it makes laser guided systems for smart bombs.

A freedom of information request submitted by The Ferret has revealed the extent of Raytheon’s access to schools in Fife, prompting critics to condemn the increasing influence of arms firms in Scotland’s education sector.

In response to our revelation, Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Scottish Greens have called for an end to arms dealers teaching schoolchildren, arguing that Raytheon’s products have been “implicated in alleged war crimes, including the slaughter of children in Yemen “.

But Raytheon and Fife Council said in response that the firm makes a positive contribution to the teaching of science.

Since 2016 the American company has visited Fife secondary schools 81 times for a drone making project called the Quadcopter Challenge, with the aim of encouraging children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, aka STEM.

The schools in Fife involved in Raytheon’s project are Auchmuty High, Glenrothes High, Inverkeithing High, Kirkcaldy High, Balwearie High, Beath High, Glenwood High, Levenmouth High, Lochgelly High and Woodmill High.

Raytheon’s latest Quadcopter Challenge was launched at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow in July.

The fourth annual competition is open to schools around each of the company’s major UK sites: Broughton, Glenrothes, Waddington, Harlow, Manchester and Gloucester. Last year’s event drew more than 250 students.

Raytheon has been the focus of media attention since 2015 after its smart bombs were linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen, a war which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting Houthi rebels since 2015. The coalition is armed by the UK and uses British made warplanes and bombs part-made in Scotland.

Data collected by Al Jazeera and the Yemen Data Project has found that almost one-third of the 16,000 air raids carried out in the country have hit non-military sites.

The air attacks have targeted weddings, hospitals and other civilian sites, killing and wounding thousands. There are investigations on-going into alleged war crimes and the UK Government has faced a legal challenge over its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Raytheon’s factory in Glenrothes 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.

I doubt their recent classroom visits have included anything about the bus full of Yemeni schoolchildren which was destroyed last month by the Saudi air force, killing all forty two children on board. Ross Greer, Green MSP

Green MSP Ross Greer condemned the firm’s role in schools and said there is “nothing normal about an industry and a company whose business is all about killing as many people as ‘effectively’ as possible”.

“Raytheon are the world’s largest guided missile manufacturer and their equipment is implicated in alleged war crimes, including the slaughter of children in Yemen in recent weeks,” he added.

“It is just unacceptable for this company to be given access to so many Scottish children, where they try to pretend what they do is harmless and normal. I doubt their recent classroom visits have included anything about the bus full of Yemeni schoolchildren which was destroyed last month by the Saudi air force, killing all forty two children on board.

“The reach of arms dealers into our classrooms has to end, now.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said Raytheon’s school visits are “totally inappropriate” and are nothing more than a “propaganda vehicle for one of the world’s biggest and most disgraceful arms companies”.

He added: “This shows the shameful lengths that Raytheon goes to when targeting school students and young people. Raytheon’s bombs are being dropped on Yemen, and the results are devastating. Thousands of people have been killed in the destruction.

“Raytheon won’t be talking about the deadly consequences of its business. It’s time for Fife Council to take action and ensure that companies that profit from war are no longer welcomed into classrooms.”

However, a spokesperson for Raytheon defended its teaching role and said: “Raytheon and others in the aerospace and defence industry promote STEM education. Our build-a-quadcopter challenge inspires students to think about the principles of engineering and maths in an engaging way and is welcomed by the schools involved in the programme.”

Fife Council also defended its link with Raytheon. Councillor Altany Craik, Fife Council Convener for Economy, Planning and Tourism, said: “Fife Council works with leading manufacturers in the development of STEM skills for a future Fife workforce.

“We welcome the ongoing commitment of Raytheon to promote STEM education in Fife through its build-a-quadcopter challenge. This initiative engages many students in Fife each year, helps inspire many to continue their studies in Science and Maths-related areas and highlights the opportunity to pursue an exciting career in industry.”

Arms dealers’ school visits damned as ‘moral disgrace’

We revealed last week that the world’s third largest arms firm – BAE Systems UK – was offering history lessons on WW1 to schools.

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”.

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

Photo thanks to fahd sadi, CC BY 3.0