The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act placed a duty on schools in England and Wales to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. Since then, there have been some high-profile cases of young children, in particular, who have been incorrectly flagged up as at risk of radicalisation.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act before June, indicate that there were 2311 referrals to the Channel scheme for under 18s. There are reports of children as young as four being referred. Not all of the cases will have been acted upon and in the case of 90% of referrals no action is taken. However, they are still disturbing statistics and concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the strategy.
One concern is about the way in which parts of the community are feeling targeted. David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has highlighted the harm the approach is having in communities that feel they are in the spotlight. This worry has been expressed in the educational community too. In March 2016, the NUT voted to reject the government’s Prevent strategy.
Lucy Allen MP has brought a private member’s Bill to Parliament which proposes to repeal the provision that requires teachers, carers and responsible adults to report signs of extremism or radicalisation among children in primary, nursery and pre-school settings. The second reading of the debate took place on 27 January 2017.
However, it is unlikely that as things stand there will be any changes to the current legislation, at least in the short term. Anxiety about the risk of radicalisation, particularly through the internet, remains high. In the meantime, it is a case of ensuring that staff in your school have been trained and are in a position to fulfil their duty.
It is possible to help alleviate what you might feel are some of the negative effects of the duty by pursuing a community cohesion agenda too. Although this is no longer a priority for Ofsted, schools are still finding value in building trust and cooperation.