Government's Prevent strategy in schools 'used to target young Muslims'


Teachers are to debate whether schools' involvement in the Government's flagship counter-terrorism strategy should be scrapped amid fears it is leading to attacks on young Muslims.

The NUT will consider whether to call on Westminster to withdraw the Prevent duty from schools and colleges over concerns there have been too many high profile cases where pupils were wrongly referred to police for comments made during classroom discussions.

In January, it was revealed a 10-year-old Muslim boy was quizzed by police after he mistakenly wrote that he lived in a "terrorist house" rather than a "terraced house".

And last month, a 15-year-old boy was referred to police after clicking on the Ukip website in the classroom to research immigration.

Since last July teachers have been legally obliged to report any suspected extremist behaviour to police as part of the anti-radicalisation strategy.

A motion, due to be presented at their annual spring conference in Brighton this weekend, calls on the Government to withdraw the Prevent duty from schools, and to develop "alternative strategies to safeguarding children".

The motion states the strategy is being implemented "against a background of increased attacks on the Muslim community and risks being used to target young Muslim people".

Teachers say they are concerned they are being forced into referring pupils to police without probing the student further themselves first.

The NUT is due to debate whether or not to considering refusing cooperation with the scheme, should the Government not amend current policy.

Latest figures show, on average, two teachers call the Government hotline every school day over concerns a pupil may be becoming radicalised.

Last year the Department for Education (DfE) issued advice for schools and childcare providers on how to meet the new Prevent duty requirement.

It said: "Schools and childcare providers can also 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."

Schools are expected to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, which can include support for extremist ideas that are "part of terrorist ideology".


A Government spokesman said: "We make no apology for protecting children and young people from the risks of extremism and radicalisation. It's irresponsible to draw attention to such 'sensationalist' cases and undermine the efforts of teachers who use their judgement and act proportionally. Prevent is playing a key role in identifying children at risk of radicalisation and supporting schools to intervene.

"Good schools will already have been safeguarding children from extremism and promoting fundamental British values long before this duty came into force. We have published guidance on the Prevent Duty and made a wide range of advice and materials available to the sector through our Educate Against Hate website."