Radicalisation

Introduction

Children can be exposed to different views and receive information from various sources. Some of these views may be considered radical or extreme.

Radicalisation is the process through which a person comes to support or be involved in extremist ideologies. It can result in a person becoming drawn into terrorism and is in itself a form of harm.

Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. It includes calls for the death of members of the British armed forces (HM Government, 2011).

Challenging and tackling extremism needs to be a shared effort (HM Government, 2013). For this reason, the Government has given some types of organisations in England, Scotland and Wales a duty to identify vulnerable children and young people and prevent them from being drawn into terrorism. 

> Find out more about this duty in the Prevent tab 

However, all organisations that work with children and young people have a responsibility to protect children from harm. This includes becoming radicalised and/or being exposed to extreme views.

On this page we’re sharing best practice about recognising, responding to and preventing radicalisation and extremism.

Recognising and responding

Recognising and responding

How does radicalisation happen?

The process of radicalisation may involve: 

  • being groomed online or in person 
  • exploitation, including sexual exploitation
  • psychological manipulation
  • exposure to violent material and other inappropriate information
  • the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts.

It happens gradually so children and young people who are affected may not realise what it is that they are being drawn into. 

> Find out more about grooming 

Vulnerability factors

Anyone can be radicalised but there are some factors which may make a young person more vulnerable. These include:

  • being easily influenced or impressionable
  • having low self-esteem or being isolated
  • feeling that rejection, discrimination or injustice is taking place in society
  • experiencing community tension amongst different groups
  • being disrespectful or angry towards family and peers
  • having a strong need for acceptance or belonging
  • experiencing grief such as loss of a loved one.

These factors will not always lead to radicalisation.

Indicators of radicalisation

If a child or young person is being radicalised their day-to-day behaviour may become increasingly centred around an extremist ideology, group or cause. For example, they may: 

  • spend increasing amounts of time talking to people with extreme views (this includes online and offline communication)
  • change their style of dress or personal appearance
  • lose interest in friends and activities that are not associated with the extremist ideology, group or cause
  • have material or symbols associated with an extreme cause
  • try to recruit others to join the cause

(Home Office, 2015).

What to do if you think a child is being radicalised

If you think a child or the people around them are involved in radicalisation and there is an immediate risk of harm, call 999 straight away.

If it isn’t an emergency, follow your organisation’s procedures. This might include:

The Department for Education has a dedicated telephone helpline for schools in England who have non-emergency concerns about extremism: 020 7340 7264.

Protecting children from radicalisation

Protecting children from radicalisation

What can organisations do?

To help stop radicalisation from happening, your organisation can:

  • include radicalisation in your safeguarding policies and procedures
  • identify those at risk and make sure everyone in your organisation knows when to report a concern
  • work in partnership with other organisations across the community
  • promote positive messages of tolerance and community cohesion
  • help parents and children get support.

Policies and procedures

Protecting children and young people from being drawn into radicalisation and extremism should be part of your safeguarding policies and procedures. This should include information about how to recognise and respond to radicalisation, both online and offline.

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 protect children from terrorist and extremist content online (Home Office, 2016; Home Office and Scottish Government, 2015). This is also good practice for other organisations.

> Find out more about writing a safeguarding policy and procedures

> Find out more about writing an online safety policy statement

Risk assessment

The risk of children and young people becoming radicalised may vary from area to area. It is important that you understand the risks that are most relevant to the young people you work with so you 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).

Training

Staff and volunteers should be fully trained to understand how children can become radicalised, recognise the signs that a child may be at risk and know what action to take.

> Take our introductory child protection training

> Find out more about keeping children safe online

Working in partnership 

It’s important that agencies across the community work together to tackle the threat of radicalisation and extremism. One way to do this is to think about spaces where radicalisation may take place and work together to make them safer.

Positive messages

You can build young people’s resilience to radicalisation and extremism by:

  • helping improve their self-esteem and self-confidence
  • promoting inclusivity and community cohesion
  • providing a safe environment for debating a range of issues such as British values, recognising and managing risk, making safer choices and the impact of pressure from others
  • helping young people understand how they can influence and participate in decision making.

Supporting vulnerable children and families

Getting early help to those at risk is vital. Work with other groups and agencies in the local community to provide children and families with appropriate support, welfare and pastoral care. 

> Find out more about early help 

The Prevent duty

The Prevent duty

Some organisations 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.

These organisations include:

  • schools 
  • registered childcare providers
  • local authorities
  • the police
  • prisons and probation services
  • NHS trusts and foundations.

Other organisations may also have Prevent duties if they perform delegated local authority functions.

Even if your organisation doesn’t have a legal Prevent duty, you should still work to prevent radicalisation and extremism as part of your overall safeguarding responsibilities.

What are my responsibilities under the Prevent duty?

There is Prevent duty guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales (PDF) and separate guidance for Scotland (PDF) (Home Office, 2016; Home Office and Scottish Government, 2015). This details the responsibilities of organisations in different sectors.

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).

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 and childcare providers should take to prevent and respond to concerns about radicalisation. 

The DfE has also produced guidance for further education (FE) and skills providers in England on work based learning and the Prevent statutory duty (DfE, 2018). This includes advice on how FE colleges and skills providers can work together to ensure safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable young people from radicalisation and extremism.

References and resources

References and resources

Department for Education (DfE) (2015) The Prevent duty: departmental advice for schools and childcare providers. London: Department for Education.

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Work based learners and the Prevent statutory duty. London: Department for Education.

HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy (PDF). [London]: HM Government.

HM Government (2013) Tackling extremism in the UK: report from the Prime Minister’s task force on tackling radicalisation and extremism (PDF). London: HM Government.

Home Office (2015) Channel duty guidance: protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism (PDF).  London: Home Office.

Home Office (2016) Revised Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales: guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (PDF). [London]: Home Office.

Home Office and Department for Education (DfE) (2015) How social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq: briefing note for schools (PDF). London: Home Office.

Home Office and Scottish Government (2015) Revised Prevent duty guidance for Scotland: guidance for specified Scottish authorities on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism (PDF). [Edinburgh]: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2018) Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC). [Accessed 20/07/2018].

Useful information, resources and lesson plans

Prevent for Schools