Q: Are there any implications of the duty to prevent children being drawn into radicalisation and extremism when it comes to absences from school?

Published: Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A. This is now an extremely important area of all schools' safeguarding responsibilities.

There are many links between safeguarding and attendance but this issue has certainly had a higher profile recently. Schools are expected to be alert to any signs that a child or young person – or their parents and siblings – may be vulnerable to external influences which might encourage them to act in extremist ways or adopt extremist attitudes. If this results in any change in the student's commitment to attending school, or if their parents request leave in any circumstance that might suggest they are planning to travel to areas where so-called Islamic State is operating, schools are now expected to raise this concern with the police or other relevant local agency.

Sometimes it is not until later or with the benefit of hindsight that the implications of the behaviour or the request for leave become clear. It is very unlikely that those concerned will make their intentions obvious. I would hope that, if there is any local intelligence suggesting an existing risk, schools will be informed before it is too late. However, as with the risk of forced marriage or Female Genital Mutilation, the possible implications of any such request, or any move towards off-registration, must be considered and urgent advice sought if required. It may not always be possible to refuse the parents' wishes but if there is any doubt as to their motive, if other children or families are expressing concern or the family suddenly disappears, local safeguarding procedures must be followed.


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