Schools in England, Scotland and Wales have a duty, as a specified authority under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, to identify vulnerable children and young people and prevent them from being drawn into terrorism. This is known as the Prevent duty.
There is Prevent duty guidance for specified authorities (including schools) in England and Wales (PDF) and separate guidance for Scotland (PDF) (Home Office, 2016; Home Office and Scottish Government, 2015).
In addition, the Department for Education (DfE) has produced advice on the Prevent duty for schools and childcare providers in England (DfE, 2015). This gives more detailed guidance about the actions schools should take to prevent and respond to concerns about radicalisation.
There is no specific Prevent guidance for Northern Ireland. This is explained in sections 11.59-11.6 of the Prevent strategy (PDF) (HM Government, 2011).
What are schools required to do under the Prevent duty?
Protecting children and young people from being drawn into terrorism should be part of a school’s wider safeguarding responsibility and should be included in school policies and procedures. This should include:
- risk assessment
- working in partnership
- staff training
- online safety policies.
The risk of children and young people becoming radicalised may vary from area to area. It is important that schools understand these risks so they can respond in an appropriate way.
The Home Office has provided a vulnerability framework as part of its Channel duty guidance (PDF), which can be used to identify those who may be at risk of becoming radicalised (Home Office, 2015). Indicators that someone may be vulnerable to being radicalised include:
- a person changing their style of dress or personal appearance
- a person’s day-to-day behaviour becoming increasingly centred around an extremist ideology, group or cause
- a person having material or symbols associated with an extremist cause.
Working in partnership
It’s important that agencies across the community work together to tackle the threat of radicalisation and extremism. The Home Office funds dedicated Prevent coordinators to work with communities and schools.
All school staff should attend training so they understand how children can become radicalised, are aware of possible signs that a child may be at risk and know what action to take.
The Home Office has developed a core training product for this purpose: Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) and there should be professionals within local authorities who are WRAP trained facilitators. More information about this is available in paragraphs 92-95 of the Home Office’s Channel duty guidance (PDF) (Home Office, 2015).
Channel also provides a free online awareness course about extremism that may be useful for staff to complete (Channel, 2018).
Children can become radicalised online, through social media and the internet.
The Prevent duty guidance for England, Wales (PDF) and Scotland (PDF) specifies the need for schools to have appropriate web filtering systems in place to block extremist materials (Home Office, 2016; Home Office and Scottish Government, 2015).
The Department for Education (DfE) and Home Office have also published a briefing for schools in England about how social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq (PDF) (Department for Education and Home Office, 2015).
Internet safety should be integral to the school curriculum through information and communication technology (ICT), personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and citizenship lessons. Online safety presentations, assemblies and workshops can all highlight online risks and offer strategies for staying safe.
Protecting children and young people from radicalisation
By promoting community cohesion and providing a safe environment for debating controversial issues, schools can build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation and help them understand how they can influence and participate in decision making.
PSHE lessons can be an appropriate time to explore sensitive and controversial issues. This might include discussions on British values, recognising and managing risk, making safer choices and understanding how pressure from others can threaten personal safety. These discussions can help to develop positive character traits which can help protect young people such as resilience, determination, self-esteem and confidence.
Citizenship lessons can also help pupils gain the knowledge, skills and understanding to enable them to play a positive role in society.
Supporting vulnerable pupils
Getting early help to those at risk is vital and this can be done through providing pupils with support, welfare and pastoral care. In Scotland, this should be done as part of the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) (Scottish Government, 2018)
Schools may be able to refer pupils they identify to be at risk of Islamist extremism to the Channel programme. This is a multi-agency intervention programme providing mentoring and signposting to young people (mainly 15-24 years old). Further information about the programme can be found in section 3 of the Channel duty guidance (PDF) (Home Office, 2015).
What to do if you have a concern
If a member of staff has a concern that a pupil may be at risk of becoming radicalised they should follow the school’s normal safeguarding procedures. If necessary the school should make the appropriate referral to children’s social care, the police or Channel.
The Department for Education has a dedicated telephone helpline for schools in England who have non-emergency concerns about extremism 020 7340 7264.
Scotland has an anti-terrorist hotline 0800 789 321 (for non-urgent matters).
The NSPCC helpline (0808 800 5000) can also advise adults that are worried a child may be in danger of becoming radicalised.