On 24 October 2022, “Prevent duty guidance for those working in education settings” was published by the Department for Education (the “guidance”). The guidance clarifies how individuals who work in education settings can best safeguard pupils who may be vulnerable to radicalisation. It is not a replacement to the Prevent Duty guidance, which you should continue to follow and read alongside the guidance.
In accordance with the Prevent Duty, all education providers must have due regard to the need to prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism. The Prevent Duty is a framework to respond to the changing nature of threat in the UK.
The guidance is aimed at designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), as well as individuals who work in an education setting with safeguarding responsibilities for keeping pupils and students safe. It sets out the Prevent referral process, together with the statutory responsibilities to ensure that pupils and students are safe from the risk of extremist ideology or radicalisation.
The guidance also hopes to guide DSLs to responding and supporting pupils who may be being exploited by radicalising influences.
The guidance is separated into four sections:
- An introduction for those with safeguarding responsibilities
- Understanding and identifying radicalisation risk in your education setting
- Managing risk of radicalisation in your education setting
- Case studies
An introduction for those with safeguarding responsibilities
Section one of the guidance succinctly sets out the basics of the Prevent duty and reminds individuals working in education settings of the immediate steps to take to be fully prepared to comply with the Prevent duty.
Some of the steps which can be taken include building partnerships with your school’s local authority Prevent lead, contacting partners to understand the risks and threats which are specific to your area and finding out at an early stage how to seek support from your local Prevent teams or the police should you need it.
Understanding and identifying radicalisation risk in your education setting
Section two of the guidance helps you to understand and identify radicalisation risk in your specific school. Sadly, no school is risk-free, and your DSL should understand the risk of radicalisation in your school’s area and educational setting. This risk can change quickly, so should be re-visited on a regular basis.
Managing risk of radicalisation in your education setting
The guidance provides helpful guidance to schools at section three in respect of managing the risk of radicalisation in your setting. Your school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead should be considering the behaviour of any individual in the broader context of any wider factors which may be influencing their behaviour, and in light of any vulnerabilities which might be specific to that individual.
To manage the risk of radicalisation in your school, you should consider contextual, vulnerability and protective factors to make a comprehensive assessment of risk and harm. Where decisions are made, you should keep a written record of all concerns, discussions, and decisions, together with clear reasoning behind those decisions.
The guidance sets out four risk levels which may be identified: low risk, at risk, medium risk, and high risk. Low risk would mean that there is no evidence which suggests that a student is vulnerable to radicalisation.
However, the student may have strong, non-violent, and non-extremist, opinions and values, or may criticise government policies. These students may be provided with an opportunity to debate controversial issues in a safe space to manage the risk of radicalisation.
A student who is assessed to be ‘at risk’ may be drawn into conspiracy theories, express views that divide us, for example talking about ‘us’ and ‘them’ or isolate themselves from family and friends. If a student falls within this category you should talk to them in a safe space, and speak with the parents or carers if they are under 18. You can then make a fuller assessment of vulnerability and seek advice from Prevent partners if necessary.
Where a child is, for example, legitimising the use of violence to defend ideology or cause or being in contact with a group or individuals known to support a violent extremist ideology, either online or in real life, they are likely to be at medium risk of radicalisation.
You should, amongst other considerations set out in the guidance, think about whether there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the student is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and consider what the risks are and what would happen if these needs are not met.
Finally, a high-risk student will be any student who is evidenced to be currently exposed to terrorist or extremist activity, and there is a significant risk to their safety. If a student shows high risk, criminal behaviour – such as verbally or physically attacking someone due to, for example, their race, religion, or sexuality, or if they take part in any proscribed violent extremist group – you must tell the police immediately.
Section four of the Guidance provides some helpful case studies to act as a steer for schools to consider what they should do, and signs that may indicate that a student is at risk of radicalisation. The case studies detail the context of the issue, including actions of the student which led to concerns, the steps taken and support offered, and the outcome.
You should consider these case studies as they can act as a practical, first-hand example of behaviour which may be of concern, and the appropriate steps to take.
Whilst radicalisation is an ever-evolving and challenging issue for schools, there are steps which you can and should take in order to ensure compliance with the Prevent Duty and protect students from radicalisation:
- Consider how your school’s curriculum can be adapted and utilised to build resilience to radicalisation
- Be aware of changes in behaviour which might be of concern. These include emotional, verbal, or physical changes. Ensure you train your staff to understand, recognise and report such changes
- Ensure staff are aware of the Prevent awareness e-learning which has been prepared by the Home Office, the government’s Educate Against Hate website and your school’s internal guidance and policies
While the use of the guidance is not mandatory, you should use it to supplement your school’s existing safeguarding policies and practices. The practical advice and example of best practice serve as a ‘what to do’ and can help to guide you and ensure compliance with the statutory requirements of the Prevent Duty.