Prevent is a strategy forming part of the Government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy, Contest. Legislation means the Prevent strategy has legal status in schools and colleges in England and Wales, which are obliged ‘to have due regard’ to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
Due regard is defined as placing “an appropriate amount of weight on the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism when they consider all the other factors relevant to how they carry out their usual functions”.
This is based on the premise that “schools can help protect children from extremism and violent views in the same way they help safeguard children from drugs, gang violence and alcohol”.
Having due regard requires educational establishments to:
- actively promote fundamental British values.
- demonstrate awareness and understanding of risk to learners in their school/college and their geographical area. Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs) will have carried out risk assessments, taking account of local issues/tensions, local police intelligence and the political context at home and abroad.
- equip staff to identify ‘vulnerable’ learners and to challenge extremist ideas.
- act when concerning behaviours are observed – this means using the processes set out in safeguarding policies.
- have robust safeguarding policies in place – this does not require schools/colleges to create distinct policies on implementing the Prevent duty
- assist and advise families who raise concerns and point them to the right support.
- provide a safe space for debate and help learners to understand how they can influence and participate in decision-making both at school/college level and in a wider arena.
- provide secure access online – schools/colleges need to have appropriate filters and monitoring systems, so that no learner can access harmful content via the school or college’s IT systems.
- work in partnership with the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board and relevant community organisations.
‘Fundamental British values’
Fundamental British values (FBV) are not defined by legislation but are included in the Government’s definition of extremism. This is defined as: “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.”
The Government believes the active promotion of fundamental British values in schools and colleges will “create resilience” to extremism and radicalisation.
The Government expects the promotion of FBV to lead learners to:
- an understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process.
- an appreciation that living under the rule of law protects individual citizens and is essential for their wellbeing and safety.
- an understanding of the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary.
- an understanding that the freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law.
- tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.
- an understanding of the importance of identifying and combating discrimination.
Prevent and work
The Prevent duty applies to the governors and/or proprietors of schools and colleges, not to the individuals who work in them. School and college staff are likely to be bound by their employment contract to take whatever steps their employer deems necessary to meet the Prevent duty.
School and college staff are advised by government guidance to:
- have awareness of Prevent and “the risks it is intended to address”
- ensure children are taught “in a way that is consistent with the law and our values”
- help to identify and refer to the relevant agencies “children whose behaviour suggests that they are being drawn into terrorism or extremism”.
Statutory guidance says schools and colleges “will need to consider the level of risk to identify the most appropriate referral, which could include Channel or children’s social care, for example”. It also requires these policies to “set out clear protocols for ensuring that any visiting speakers – whether invited by staff or by children themselves – are suitable and appropriately supervised”.
The risk factors
The educate against hate website acts as a government repository for all things Prevent. It advises school and college staff to note various acts/behaviours in learners and report them:
- express sympathy for extremist ideologies and groups or justifying their actions.
- access extremist material online.
- possess extremist literature.
- are in contact with extremist recruiters.
- join or seeking to join extremist organisations.
- spend excessive time online or on the phone, and being secretive/reluctant to discuss what they are doing.
- change an online identity, including social media name or profile image.
- become argumentative and unwilling to listen to other people’s points of view.
- refuse to engage with, or becoming abusive to, peers who are different from them, perhaps based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.
- are susceptible to conspiracy theories and feelings of persecution.
- change friendship groups and appearance.
- convert to a new religion.
- reject activities previously enjoyed.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) describes Channel as “a multi-agency approach to identify and provide support to individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorist-related activity”.
When your school or college brings a learner to the attention of Channel, an initial assessment of risk will be conducted by the police. The police will consider whether there is evidence of:
- engagement with a group, cause or ideology.
- intent to cause harm.
- capability to cause harm.
Following investigation and information gathering, the learner will be judged to be:
- vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and therefore suitable for Channel,
- vulnerable in some other way and therefore signposted to other support, or
- not vulnerable.
If assessed as vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, a panel will:
- meet to confirm the assessment and consider the kinds of support to be offered,
- ensure support is provided, and
- ensure a police officer regularly liaises with support providers for updates.
The role of the local authority
The role of the local authority is to establish a Channel panel and to assess, in consultation with schools, colleges and other frontline service providers, the level of risk to children and young people in the area, and what those risks are. The local authority must then produce a local action plan which schools and colleges will be required to adapt their existing safeguarding policies.