Schools are increasingly seen as being on the front-lines of the battle to prevent extremism. Their duty to prevent extremism has now been enshrined in law in Section 26 of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act which came into force on July 1st, and which requires that schools have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
Being drawn into terrorism includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit.
What must schools do about radicalisation?
In order to fulfil the PREVENT DUTY schools are expected to be able to demonstrate their compliance with this duty, appropriate to the level of risk of radicalisation in their institution. It is essential that staff are able to identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and know what to do when they are identified.
Schools can build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views. It is important to emphasise that the Prevent Duty is not intended to stop pupils debating controversial issues. On the contrary, schools should provide a safe space in which children, young people and staff can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the knowledge and skills to be able to challenge extremist arguments.
What does St Aidan’s School do ?
At our school we believe that children should be given the opportunity to explore the issue of diversity and understand Britain as a multi-cultural society. Providing a safe learning environment in which children can raise questions and concerns without fear of reprimand or ridicule and explore boundaries of what’s acceptable will engender an open attitude to multi-cultural and race issues. Our school ethos and core values make it clear that the pupils should treat everyone with respect whatever their race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, special need or disability.
Through promoting British Values, in all aspects of school life, we engage children in promoting a positive attitude to others with a focus on shared values whilst developing a high regard for themselves. By building self-esteem children are encouraged to stand firm and be positive about others and not be influenced by any negative peer pressure they may encounter. Through exploring such elements and discussing and debating them in assemblies and through our balanced curriculum we can enable children to think for themselves by providing many opportunities for discussing debating, researching, and exploring questioning within the context of learning based on sound knowledge and understanding.
In September 2015 we studied British Values as a whole school topic. We began by looking at the British Isles and understanding where we live, the history and cultural elements of our country. We taught the pupils about Democracy through a vote for School Council Representatives (see School Council Section for more information) and we looked at what each British Value means for us in our everyday lives.
“The way we educate our young people shapes the society we will live in. British schools have long been dedicated to encouraging students to think for themselves and to think about others, a blend of critical thinking and empathy that is the best inoculation against radicalism and extremism.”
Russell Hobby NAHT General secretary 06/11