Prevent Duty and Counter-Extremism Strategy are the UK Government’s response to the threat of terrorism, which during the last few years has become more prominent globally and especially in Europe. According to the government, the threat is real and operating on an unprecedented scale. As a result, British fundamental values including the rule of law, democracy, individual liberty, and the mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of different faiths and beliefs are under attack.
Although the greatest threat comes from Islamist extremism represented by such groups as Al Qa’ida or ISIL, extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups are also dangerous and contribute to promoting violent actions and ideologies (HM Government, 2015).
The Prevent strategy, being part of the overall counter terrorism strategy known as CONTEST, aims at reducing the threat to the country by “stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism” (HM Government, 2015). In other words, its goal is to prevent British children from being drawn to terrorism. The legislation places certain duties on specified authorities as part of their professional activities — and that includes schools and registered child care providers.
Educators are positioned to be among the first to notice signs of vulnerability, and they also have the strongest non-parental responsibility for and influence on children. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure they fully understand what is required of them and how to demonstrate that they comply in full with the new legal requirements surrounding Prevent Duty.
What is Radicalisation?
Educators need to understand by what means extremists recruit their potential followers if they are to be able to recognise early indicators in children’s behaviour that might mean they are at risk of being radicalised. In fact, radicalisation serves as a main tool to encouraging children, young people and adults to support terrorism and extremist ideologies. Since it is a long term process, it usually takes time for certain changes in behaviour to become more noticeable. This is why Prevent Duty requires that schools and early years providers demonstrate an awareness and full understanding of the risk of radicalisation in their institution and area.
Three themes within the programme outline the scope of activities that need to be conducted by all specified authorities including schools and child care providers — Leadership, Working in Partnerships, and Capabilities.
School and early years leaders need to make sure they have mechanisms in place for understanding the risk of radicalisation, promoting Prevent Duty among their staff, ensuring their staff has sufficient understanding and are able to implement the duty effectively.
Working in Partnerships
Education providers must demonstrate that they cooperate effectively with local Prevent co-ordinators, the police, and local authorities to protect children from radicalisation and to offer adequate support for children at risk.
It is required of school and early years leaders to provide appropriate training to their staff that will help them implement their duty effectively.
Educational Sector-Specific Requirements
As much as the above are relevant for all specified authorities including schools and child care providers, there are four additional education sector-specific themes that also need to be covered under the Prevent Duty.
As a result of obligatory training, staff who are directly involved in the implementation of Prevent Duty need to understand what radicalisation and extremism are, why children might become vulnerable to radicalisation, how to challenge extremist ideology and protect children from being drawn to it, how to identify children at risk and how to offer adequate support.
Education providers are required to adequately assess the risk of children who are being drawn toward terrorism, and thus should have clear policies and procedures for protecting children at risk from radicalisation. Schools and nurseries should review and extend their safeguarding policies to make sure they cover staff, volunteers, learners, the learning and teaching processes, partnerships, and infrastructure.
Effective Prevent Risk Assessment should consider such aspects as premises security, IT security, information sharing, speakers and events, letting of providers’ premises, students’ organisations and subcontractors, monitoring of literature and posters, incidents management, and faith facilities. This list is not exhaustive, and organisations should establish their own policies and procedures which would be most relevant to their needs and structure.
Reporting and Referral
Similar to general safeguarding issues, all practitioners should know and understand what to do once a child at risk has been identified, and all providers should demonstrate they have in place appropriate systems and measures to offer support when necessary. This includes designating a Safeguarding Lead, having referral and emergency procedures in place, cooperating with children’s social care and the Channel programme.
All education providers need to be aware of the threat of online radicalisation and aim to reduce that threat to a minimum by having appropriate measures in place that would not allow students to access extremist materials, download or save extremist resources on computer systems, or engage in contact with radical groups. Such measures should include appropriate filtering and monitoring, conducting regular e-safety sessions, and using IT curriculum to promote safe online behaviour. That also includes making sure staff, students and parents understand the threat of online radicalisation and follow providers’ e-safety policies and procedures.
Working in Partnerships
Schools and child care providers need to understand the importance of close partnerships with Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, Home Office dedicated Prevent Co-ordinators, the police and parents to effectively protect children from radical influences. Sharing information, discussing best support options, referring students when necessary, and both participating in and providing relevant training for students, staff and parents draw on the expertise of the community.
Building Children’s Resilience, Promoting British Values
One of the best ways to protect students from radicalisation is to build their individual resilience and promote British Values. Schools may do so by means of SMSC (social, moral, spiritual, cultural) development, but also by using a cross-curricular approach.
It is important not only to organise formal sessions through which students will learn about democracy, the rule of law, and individual freedom, but also to provide plenty of opportunities for them to actually experience it. Organising school mock elections, planning for learning experiences together with students, and engaging them in collaboration and teamwork are all effective ways to promote British Values.
Early years providers can use the EYFS framework and by helping children learn right from wrong, value others’ views, know similarities and differences between people, and challenge negative attitudes.
The Revised Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales. HM Government, 2015
Counter-Extremism Strategy. HM Government, 2015