The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 12 February. Education institutions have been awaiting the publication of the guidance by the Home Secretary to institutions specified in Schedule 6 of the Act on the performance of the duty contained in s.26 of the Act to have regard, when exercising their functions, to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. The duty extends to the governing bodies of the full range of education institutions, from early years providers to higher education institutions, as well as to local authorities, health service bodies and the police and prisons.  We considered the implications of the draft guidance in our earlier briefings (Click here for FE version.  Click here for HE version).

This briefing highlights the changes made in the final document which was issued on 12 March and is accessible here.

Please note that the s.26 duty and the guidance on its performance are not yet in force. They are due to be brought into force by regulations which need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. We expect them to take effect on 26 March 2015. If there is any change to this position we will issue an updating briefing. 

Application to countries within Great Britain 

The s.26 duty will apply to specified authorities in England, Wales and Scotland. This briefing discusses the guidance to authorities in England and Wales. Separate guidance has been issued for authorities in Scotland. 

Although counter-terrorism is the responsibility of the UK government, responsibility for local delivery mechanisms is devolved. Accordingly, each section of the guidance for England and Wales now deals with the position in Wales where this differs from that in England. In certain key situations, such as use by the Secretary of State of the power of direction in s.30 of the Act, and generally in relation to the arrangements for monitoring of performance of the s.26 duty, the UK government would consult with the Welsh Ministers. 

Presentational changes

The final document has been re-ordered so schools and registered childcare providers are now covered first, followed by further education and then higher education. Two paragraphs now clarify and emphasise the importance of the Early Years Foundation Stage as creating the framework for children’s development, and accordingly the need for providers to have regard to the duty, in an “age-appropriate way”, as part of providers’ safeguarding responsibilities. This perhaps reflects the questions raised on behalf of Early Years providers as the Act was passing through Parliament. 

Again perhaps in response to criticisms of the Act in Parliament, there are also extended introductory sections explaining the government’s view that regardless of where radicalisation occurs, signs of it may be visible to staff in further and higher education institutions. Institutions will be expected to have the necessary arrangements in place to “recognise these signs and respond appropriately”.  

There is also now explicit reference to sixth form colleges and the EFA as well as to further education colleges and the SFA.  

Substantive changes

Given the considerable criticism of the draft guidance made in particular by the House of Lords it is perhaps surprising that the final document contains relatively few substantive changes. However, the guidance states that the government will issue further guidance to colleges and universities on the management of external speakers and events, including the interaction of the Prevent duty with institutions’ existing duty to secure freedom of speech.  However, any such guidance is unlikely to appear before the general election given concerns expressed by the Liberal Democrats. The government will also appoint an appropriate body to assess higher education institutions’ compliance with the duty. The document makes no mention of HEFCE/W being so nominated but this must still be a distinct possibility. A separate monitoring framework, setting how monitoring will work, is to be published.

Other changes include:

  • schools are reminded that though Prevent is not intended to limit discussion of and challenge to sensitive topics such as terrorism, schools must forbid indoctrination and secure a balanced presentation of political ideas.
  • further and higher education institutions will be expected to engage and consult students on their plans for implementing the duty.
  • only appropriate members of staff will now be expected to have an understanding of the factors that make people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and how to challenge extremist ideas. (The draft guidance referred to all staff being expected to have this understanding.) This will enable institutions to target Prevent training cost effectively.
  • further and higher education institutions will be expected to have clear and widely available policies for the use of prayer rooms and other faith-related facilities, including arrangements for oversight and for managing issues that may arise from use of the facilities.
  • The risk assessment that institutions will be expected to carry out should include relationships with external bodies and community groups who may use premises or work in partnership with the institution. This will mean some institutions may need to strengthen their procedures for due diligence on such bodies.
  • large further and higher education institutions are no longer expected to have an internal Channel programme panel, provided there are appropriate arrangements for internal liaison on Prevent issues.