Teachers to consider stance on Prevent anti-terrorism strategy

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 National Union of Teachers (NUT) will consider on Monday 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 the NUT's spring conference in Brighton, 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.

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."