The Prevent Strategy, as published by the Government in 2011, is part of the overall counter-terrorism strategy designed to reduce the threat from terrorism through prevention. There are three specific objectives:
– respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it;
– prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given appropriate advice and support; and
– work with sectors and institutions where there are risks or radicalisation that we need to address.
Since July 2015, staff in schools, along with others who work with children such as medics, have had a legal duty to show “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This requires schools to be able to detect whether children in their care are subject to extremist ideologies that run counter to British values, and that may lead to radicalisation and potentially to terrorist activities. Where once the threat was thought to be from Islamic extremists, it is now recognised that threats are diverse and include those coming from the extreme right of the political spectrum.
The Government is keen to point out that the Prevent Duty should not be burdensome to schools. It is, they say, consistent with current responsibilities. This, combined with Ofsted’s revised common inspection framework for education, skills and early years (which came into effect in September 2015) also makes specific reference to the prevention of radicalisation and extremism. And this is taken very seriously by schools, as an Ofsted representative explained to me: “The vast majority of schools – as well as early years settings and further education colleges – take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously and take action to keep pupils safe and well, as our last Ofsted Annual Report stated. Similarly, the vast majority of schools actively promote teaching and learning focusing on fundamental British values (the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs), to fulfil their responsibilities under the Prevent Duty, and to help pupils to become more resilient.”
There is an elevated role for the specific promotion of British values that runs alongside the Prevent Duty. As Ofsted says, “When they go into schools, inspectors make a judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management by evaluating the extent to which leaders, managers and governors actively promote British values. Inspectors also check that safeguarding arrangements to protect children, young people and learners meet all statutory and other government requirements, promote their welfare and prevent radicalisation and extremism.”
As Ofsted explained in its Prevent Duty sides (see below), in order to meet the Prevent Duty, schools need effective leadership, good communication, partnerships with relevant agencies and the timely and effective sharing of information with relevant authorities. As a minimum, the designated safeguarding lead should be trained in Prevent and be in a position to offer advice and support to other staff.
While the Duty is significant, the key message must surely be that partnership working, with the Police, community groups, parents, the Local Safeguarding Children Board and relevant others in your area, alongside multi-agency working, will greatly support the effective carrying out of the Prevent Duty in schools, and that is something that all staff can be engaged in.
Find out more
– The revised Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales
– The Prevent Duty: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers, June 2015
– Slides by Ofsted on the Prevent Duty for schools can be viewed here
– The Educate Against Hate website carries extensive information and practical advice for teachers and school leaders about protecting children from radicalisation and extremism.
– Understanding Prevent – this programme on BBC Radio 4 explores the origins and evolution of the Prevent strategy.
– What the Prevent Duty means for schools and colleges in England: An analysis of educationalists’ experiences, July 2017
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.