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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

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Extremism and radicalisation: legislation and guidance for schools

Education lawyer, Dai Durbridge, explains what schools need to know about radicalisation and stresses the importance of teacher training and multi-agency support.

Dai Durbridge cropped

What issues are schools facing with regard to extremism and radicalisation?

 Dai Durbridge, partner and education lawyer at Browne Jacobson LLP

Protecting children from extremism and radicalisation is a relatively new element of safeguarding in schools. A number of recent high profile events have given it a greater focus, evidenced in part by the addition of a small section in Keeping Children Safe in Education and a new legal duty on schools under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The issues for schools mirror those for safeguarding generally (although perhaps with greater political and press scrutiny) – criticism for a perceived failure to prevent radicalisation, a likely greater focus by Ofsted and strained links with parents and the wider community.

Is there new legislation or guidance schools need to be aware of to safeguard pupils against the risk of extremism?

The Prevent Agenda dates back to 2011 and more recently the Government issued the Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools guidance (Nov 2014). Whilst this guidance is not strictly about radicalisation and extremism, it is aimed at achieving the same goal. Recently the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 received Royal Assent. Section 26 puts a duty on schools to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. The government has issued guidance to support it – Prevent Duty guidance for England and Wales 2015. The duty on schools came into force in July this year.

How will this impact practice in schools when managing extremism and radicalisation?

The 2011 Prevent agenda should be embedded in schools practice and if so, the 2014 British Values guidance adds little extra burden. Making sure schools are up to date and compliant is extremely important, as Ofsted are likely to focus on extremism and radicalisation a good deal more. Now in force, the guidance supporting the duty is available and makes it clear that this duty requires schools to demonstrate that they are adequately assessing the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, provide training to staff to empower them to identify children at risk and amend IT policies to limit the risk of children accessing extremist material. The guidance explicitly states that Ofsted will inspect against this duty.

What advice would you give schools out there facing concerns around extremism?

There are two key issues – training and multi-agency support. Making sure your staff are appropriately trained will ensure you are aware of the potential problem as early as possible and keeping your Prevent Lead (usually your DSP) up to date with Prevent and WRAP training means they will know what to do with a referral. Your local authority should have a Prevent Coordinator and the local police should have a Prevent Engagement officer.  Enlisting the support of these agencies early will provide your school with the best chance of a successful outcome. Finally, the DfE has recently expanded its Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Group which now includes a dedicated telephone helpline – 020 7340 7264 – to enable schools to raise concerns in confidence.


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