On 01 July 2015, the Department for Education published “The Prevent duty: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers” (“the Advice”) to help governing bodies, teaching staff and managers keep children safe from the risk of radicalisation and extremism. 

In light of the increased use of social media to target individuals susceptible to radicalisation, a supplemental guidance document entitled “How social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq: Briefing note for schools” (“the Guidance”) has also been produced.

The Advice and Guidance coincides with the new “Prevent” duty, introduced by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which requires various bodies, including schools, to take steps to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (the duty imposed on schools and childcare providers came into force on 01 July 2015).

The Advice

The Advice is non-statutory and has been produced to help schools and childcare providers understand the implications of the Prevent duty and how to comply with it.  Separate statutory guidance on the Prevent duty has already been published, on 12 March 2015  (click here), and must be observed by all bodies to which the Prevent duty applies.   

The identification of children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and knowing what to do when they are identified, are two of the key messages within the Advice.  The Advice also reinforces the four key themes contained in the statutory guidance, namely the need to conduct risk assessments, to work in partnership with other bodies/agencies, to ensure staff are adequately trained and to have suitable IT policies in place.

Schools and childcare providers are expected to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism and respond to those risks in an appropriate and proportionate way.  The Advice acknowledges that there is no single way of identifying a pupil susceptible to terrorist ideology, it is therefore a matter of professional judgment and looking out for any changes in a pupil’s behavior.  Working in partnership with other bodies will help spot the signs of radicalisation, particularly effective engagement with parents. 

The Advice also emphasises the importance of Prevent awareness training and, whilst it is accepted that individual schools and childcare providers are best placed to assess their training needs in light of their assessment of the risk, reference is made to a Home Office training product entitled “Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent”.  Schools are also expected to have policies in place for ensuring internet safety and to have suitable filtering to ensure that children are safe from extremist material when accessing the internet in schools. 

The Advice suggests that schools can build resilience to radicalisation by providing a safe environment for debating controversial issues and allowing pupils to explore sensitive issues in forums such as Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) or citizenship classes. 

If a member of staff is concerned about a pupil, the Advice confirms that they should follow the school’s normal safeguarding procedures and discuss the issue with the school’s designated safeguarding lead.  School staff and childcare providers should also understand when it is appropriate to make a referral to the “Channel” programme which focuses on providing support at an early stage to those identified as vulnerable to radicalisation.

The Guidance

The Guidance is aimed at teaching staff, including Headteachers, and safeguarding leads and provides advice about online terrorist and extremist material.  Within the Guidance, there is a short summary of some of the propaganda themes on the internet, the terminology used, the way social media is exploited to radicalise and recruit vulnerable people, and guidance on what actions schools and teachers need to take.  The Guidance reinforces the need to be vigilant and to follow safeguarding procedures, including the need to discuss matters of concern with the designated safeguarding lead.  Reference is again made to the “Channel” programme and to the police or local authority.

Conclusion

It is vitally important that schools, childcare settings, and all bodies to which the Prevent duty applies, are familiar with the actions required to ensure that children are protected against the risk of radicalisation.  Whilst it may be difficult to identify those that are vulnerable to extremist ideologies, staff need to be vigilant and trained in all aspects of safeguarding procedures.