Professor Lynn Davies and Zubeda Limbada
The government has published its revised Contest strategy on counter-terror in June 2018. This strengthens the powers of police and security services, more than directly applying to educational institutions However, with new concerns about home-grown terrorism and right wing extremism, there are persistent questions about duties and strategies in schools and colleges with teachers being worried how it may apply to them.
We try to answer some very basic questions – starting with definitions (although it is important to note there is not universal agreement on these).
An extremist is someone who supports an idea, cause, or set of values so adamantly and without compromise that this person will use their views to justify anything they do.
Radicalization is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals, especially with regard to support for or use of violence.
Terrorism is the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear in order to advance a political, racial, religious or ideological cause; it uses terror and open violence against civilians to attempt to force people, authorities or governments to change their behaviour.
- What’s the current Government strategy which affects schools? The Government Prevent strategy is still in force, with the aim to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, and addressing all forms of extremisms. It places duties on institutions and authorities to safeguard against terrorism and to report concerns.
- Is the Channel scheme still there? It remains as a voluntary scheme to support those individuals considered at risk to make positive life choices, steering them away from violent extremism and terrorism by interventions in education, health, housing or employment. It’s worth remembering that local authorities as well as police can refer a person to a Channel panel.
- Can students be referred to Channel without telling parents? This is because there have been cases where families have been part of the radicalisation process. However, this is unusual, and professionals such as teachers are to take proportionate steps, starting with conversations with colleagues, safeguarding leads and with experts for advice, and involving families wherever possible.
- Are there any warning signs? It must be stressedthatthere is no one set of signals that would be a cause for alarm. Behaviours – such as increased arguing, dressing in a particular way, being active on social media or becoming more religious or political – might be typical of any teenager. When it becomes worrisome is if there is a combination of signs such as a student cutting off ties with family and friends, starting to support violence, losing interest in school or normal activities, expressing hateful views or continually researching extremist groups on the internet. Obviously, if a person is known to commit or plan violent acts, tries to acquire weapons or plans a trip to a conflict zone, then there is a legal obligation to report concerns to the police.
- As well as vigilance for individuals, what else should a school or college do? Safeguarding is not just about identifying individuals at risk, but involves a whole school strategy to make all students resilient to radicalisation. This includes fostering critical thinking skills to avoid black and white views, curriculum initiatives to challenge racism and stereotyping, and media education to enable resistance to extremist messaging.
ConnectFutures provides extensive training in these areas, enabling teachers to understand how radicalisation (face to face and online) works, how to deal with difficult and controversial issues, how to react to terrorist incidents as they arise and how to identify those at risk sensibly and sensitively. We also work across issues of gangs and extremism, to see connections in how young people are groomed into joining groups.
- As a teacher and professional – who should I contact? If urgent concerns persist, you should ring:
- the police, through the school or directly.
- 999 if there is an immediate threat to life, or ring the police on 101 who would put you in touch with your local officer who has a Prevent remit.
- the police anti-terrorist hotlineon 0800 789 321. This number is available 24/7 for members of the public to report any suspicious activity. Calls are answered by specially trained counter terrorism officers who make some initial enquiries before passing on details to local counter terrorism officers for further investigation where appropriate.
- NSPCC who recently launched a free 24 hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 for those worried about radicalization and the impact of terrorism. They have accessed to trained counsellers.
- Crimestoppers on 0800 55511 who can be contacted anonymously with information about crime
- As a teacher – what are some of the practical things I can do?
Our website ConnectFutures has an excellent section for parents who are worried about extremism, including suggestions on other agencies to contact for advice. Go to www.connectfutures.org We provide free resources, expert blogs on current far right and Islamist developments in a user friendly format that’s easy to understand.
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Connectfutures: About Us
We’re a social enterprise bringing people together to build trust and collaboration between communities and organizations around inclusion, extremism, exploitation and community engagement. We deliver our work through research, training and facilitation.
- Face to face training (half day or full day) or e-learning course on Prevent and safeguarding for teachers, students and other professionals (minimum 30 minutes) More info:
- Assemblies for students and 6 lesson plans for teachers for 10-17 year olds. More info:
Anti-extremism short films: Short stories of former far right and Islamist extremists that will be freely accessible online:
Formers and Families of extremists (2015) This study explored individuals’ journeys to and from violence, and the role of their friends and families. Far right and Islamist
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