- Schools must have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
- The Channel programme is a multi-agency approach to identifying and supporting individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism.
- School staff must be made aware of their responsibilities through training.
- Schools should also ensure that there are opportunities for students to discuss issues and for extremist views to be challenged.
The duty to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism is a controversial addition to schools' already overloaded brief. Schools are once more on the front line in dealing with a major national concern. Fear of extremism leading to terrorism and the process of radicalisation of children and young people has taken hold.
Since the passing of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, schools have a duty to have 'due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.' This is a major undertaking for schools and one which the majority do not feel well prepared to deal with.
In June 2015, the DfE published 'Prevent' duty guidance, which provides information for different sectors including schools, health and the police. The guidance was made more school-specific with the publication of the document, The 'Prevent' duty: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers.
The guidance is far from comprehensive and schools may feel disappointed that, given the weight of this duty, the advice for 'what to do if you have a concern' is limited to three paragraphs. However, it does provide the basis for understanding some of the requirements of these new responsibilities.
What school leaders must do
According to the guidance, the prevention of radicalisation and extremism sits neatly within schools' existing safeguarding responsibilities. School leaders will need to work closely with their designated person to ensure that staff training and policy documents and procedures comply.
School leaders are expected to be aware of what the local issues are and will need to take advice from the local authority (LA). Schools will need to work with other local organisations, including the local Prevent co-ordinator, the police and multi-agency forums, according to the local capacity of the LA.
Staff need to be aware of the risk of radicalisation and have the capability to deal with it. It is expected that leaders will promote the importance of the duty and communicate this clearly to staff. It is not only secondary schools to which the duty and guidance apply. We are reminded that children in primary schools are already receiving messages that schools should be challenging.
Members of staff will need to understand how to identify individual children who may be at risk and what to do to support them. The guidance recognises that there is no clear way of doing this and that staff must use their own professional judgement. A decision may need to be taken with the designated person to refer a pupil to the Channel programme.
The Channel programme
The Channel programme is a multi-agency approach to identifying and supporting individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism. It is intended to protect vulnerable people by:
- identifying individuals at risk
- assessing the nature and extent of the risk
- developing the most appropriate support plan for the individuals concerned.
If your school decides that someone is at risk, then the person can be referred to the LA's Channel co-ordinator, who makes a referral to a multi-agency panel. The panel then considers what support might be necessary, including counselling, faith guidance or a programme of civic engagement.
A Channel awareness programme is available for schools to use. It describes the Channel process and takes about 25 minutes to complete.
The main training product available for schools is the 'Workshop to raise awareness of Prevent' (WRAP). It is a two-hour workshop delivered by DVD and a facilitator and can be accessed through your LA.
Useful information can also be found on the London Grid for Learning. Sara Khan, from Counter-extremism and Inspire, has created free materials that schools can use. It include videos with Sara talking about:
- the extremist narrative
- online safety and the role of parents
- reporting and best-practice case studies
- values and developing a counter-narrative.
It provides useful training and discussion material.
The training to ensure that staff have the 'capability' to deal with the risk of radicalisation must include:
- developing an understanding of what radicalisation means and why students might be vulnerable to it
- what is meant by extremism
- the relationship between extremism and terrorism
- the measures available to prevent people from becoming drawn into terrorism
- how to challenge extremist ideology
- how to obtain support.
It is vital that your designated safeguarding lead has training in Prevent in order to support other staff in the school.
Social media is a major factor in the recruitment of young people. It is important that staff understand how it is being used and the messages that are being spread.
Schools should check that their social media or acceptable use policy includes reference to the risks of radicalisation through the internet and that suitable filtering is in place. Students may be accessing these sites at home, so information about staying safe online and how the internet can be used for radicalisation purposes should be part of your curriculum.
The Home Office and DfE have produced the document How social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq: Briefing note for schools.
The guidance emphasises the importance of promoting fundamental British values and the role that PSHE might play. It is beneficial for schools to take a look at their PSHE policy to identify where pupils are being taught to:
- recognise and manage risk
- make safer choices
- recognise when pressure from others is threatening their personal safety and wellbeing
- develop effective ways of resisting pressure
- know where and when to get help.
Schools should not limit discussion around sensitive issues. The danger is that young people and their teachers will be anxious about holding open and frank discussions. This will be counter-productive in the drive to address extremist tendencies.
If you have a concern
The Prevent guidance points out that it is not necessary to have a separate policy, and that information about Prevent might be included in the school's safeguarding policy.
Schools will need to assess the risk of the child or young person being drawn into terrorism based on the information they have. They will then need to decide whether it is necessary to intervene and at what level this should happen.
If a child or young person might be at risk, it is possible that the Chanel programme is a suitable next step. Schools will need to discuss this with the LA. If the individual is already engaged in illegal terrorist-related activity then schools must make a referral directly to the police, contacting the local police or dialling 101 (non-emergency number).
Where there is an immediate danger and the young person is planning to travel to Syria or Iraq, then schools should call 999 or contact the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321. The LA's responsible person or children's social care can also provide advice.
Have these procedures outlined in your documents, but maintain an environment in which views can be discussed, explained and challenged as a priority. No one will benefit from creating a culture of fear where students keep their views hidden and they remain unchallenged.
- 'Prevent' strategy, HM Government, 2011:http://bit.ly/Prevent2011
- 'Prevent'duty guidance: For England and Wales, HM Government, 2015: http://bit.ly/PreventDuty2015
- The 'Prevent' duty, Department for Education, 2015: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers: http://bit.ly/PreventAdvice
- Channel general awareness programme:http://bit.ly/ChannelGAP
- London Grid for Learning, DfE and Home Office: http://bit.ly/LGFLcounter-extremism
- How social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq: Briefing note for schools, Department for Education, 2015: http://bit.ly/SocialMediaSyria-Iraq
Use the following items in the toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:
- Worked example – Prevent responsibilities 21.37 KB
- Handout – Explanation of the 'Prevent' strategy19.79 KB
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