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 way a person comes to support or be involved in extremism and terrorism. It’s a gradual process so young people who are affected may not realise what’s happening.

Challenging and tackling extremism is a shared effort (HM Government, 2013). Adults who work or volunteer in faith organisations have a responsibility to protect children from becoming radicalised and/or being exposed to extreme views.

What is radicalisation

Radicalisation is a form of harm. The process 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.

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.

However these factors will not always lead to radicalisation.

If you have any concerns about a child being radicalised, you should follow your organisation’s safeguarding procedures.

Recognising radicalisation

Indicators that a child is being radicalised include:

  • becoming disrespectful and intolerant of others
  • becoming more angry
  • avoiding discussions about their views
  • using words and phrases that sound scripted
  • becoming isolated and secretive
  • not wanting to anyone else to know what they are looking at online.

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, call the police anti-terrorism hotline on 0800 789 321 or call our radicalisation helpline.

You can also report suspicious activity online.

> Get more information about how to make a report to our helpline 

Preventing radicalisation

To help stop radicalisation from happening organisations can:

  • promote positive messages of tolerance and community cohesion
  • include guidance on radicalisation in your safeguarding policies
  • make sure everyone in your organisation knows the signs of radicalisation and when to report a concern
  • share any concerns with our helpline or your local Children’s services
  • help parents and children get support.

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).

The Department for Education (DfE) has 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. 

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.

Risk assessment

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.

Staff training

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).

Online safety

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.

If you think there is an immediate risk of harm due to radicalisation, call 999.

If it isn’t an emergency:

  • The Department for Education has a dedicated telephone helpline for schools in England who have non-emergency concerns about extremism 020 7340 7264.
  • Across the UK there is an anti-terrorist hotline 0800 789 321 (for non-urgent matters).
  • Report suspicious activity online 
  • The NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 can also advise adults that are worried a child may be in danger of becoming radicalised.


References and resources

References and resources

College of Policing & Metropolitan Police Service (2014) Channel general awareness training. [Accessed 15/08/2018].

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