The government has recently issued a new initiative called the Prevent strategy which seeks ‘to provide support to individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism’. Prevent is in place to primarily prevent the radicalisation of children in education in the UK.
In a Channel 4 interview, Rizwaan Sabir, a lecturer in Criminology at Liverpool John Moores University, talked about the key objective of Prevent: ‘The whole purpose of the Prevent strategy is to stop individuals from becoming involved in planning or plotting acts of political violence.’
Prevent is by no means limited to radicalism associated with Islam. The strategy seeks to target all forms of extremism which is defined as a vocal or active opposition to fundamental British vales, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.
Certain staff working in education are expected to have specialist training in order to gain a better understanding of when it is appropriate to refer pupils to the Prevent scheme, specifically the Channel Programme, which
supports people identified at risk of being drawn into violent extremism.
Staff in primary schools and secondary schools alike must complete an hour-long training programme online.
The headmistress at St Paul’s Constable Lee Primary School, Suzanne Howard, also recently spoke about the training course: ‘[Teachers] don’t need to know everything about it, they just need to have an awareness of [radicalisation].’
However, the Prevent strategy has come under some criticism. Earlier in the year a Muslim pupil at Central Foundation Boys’ School was removed from a French class after having used the term eco-terrorism in connection with a discussion about the environment, and was questioned as part of the Prevent scheme. His parents are now pursuing legal action against the school.
The deputy head in charge of government policies at Oundle School said that the school has a duty to monitor and to report any behaviour that would suggest radicalisation of any kind.
Schools have a duty to promote tolerance, free speech and debate, but also need to help impressionable young people who might be susceptible to influences that are counter to a culture of tolerance.
The Northamptonshire Local Children Safeguarding Board has drawn up a list of ‘Vulnerability Indicators’ for all adults who work with children and young people to be aware of. The indicators may or may not indicate a serious problem, but they do provide a foundation for checking concerns about vulnerable young people.