The Prevent Agenda – Arguments For and Against

The Prevent Agenda is a recent social policy which requires schools (among other public bodies) to assist the government in preventing people from being drawn into terrorism, which is worth looking at because it’s relevant to several areas of the A level syllabus – education, crime and deviance, ethnicity, and social policy.

The Prevent duty: what it means for schools and childcare providers

From 1 July 2015 all schools are subject to a duty under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015,  to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This duty is known as the Prevent duty.

Below is a brief summary of some of the main points from the Government’s guidance to schools

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 and childcare providers can also build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

“Extremism” is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.  We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.

Schools and childcare providers should be aware of the increased risk of online radicalisation, as terrorist organisations such as ISIL seek to radicalise young people through the use of social media and the internet.

There is no single way of identifying an individual who is likely to be susceptible to a terrorist ideology. Children at risk of radicalisation may display different signs or seek to hide their views.  The Prevent duty does not require teachers or childcare providers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life, but schools are expected to liase with social services where it seems appropriate

School staff and childcare providers should understand when it is appropriate to make a referral to the Channel programme. Channel is a programme which focuses on providing support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

Stats so Far….

There were 7500 referalls in 2015-16, about 20 a day, with 1/10 being deemed at risk of radicalisation with a referral to the ‘Channel’ programme.

What are the arguments for the Prevent agenda?

Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole (also the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Prevent), argues Prevent is essential to fighting terrorism and describes the scheme as “putting an arm around” people at risk of radicalisation.

“We try and divert, allow people the opportunity to help them make better decisions. It’s absolutely fundamental,” he said.

“It has enabled us to try and help stabilise communities and stop people getting us into a cycle of aggravation.”

He cited a case in which people referred a young man from the Midlands who had been considering travelling to fight in Syria. Prevent groups worked with the man and he decided not to go,

“The people he was travelling to meet, we believe, are dead. This is very real stuff,” he said.

Some of the arguements against Prevent

Click on link four below for lots of different types of criticism – to summarise just a few:

  • It alienates British Muslim communities – let’s face it, most of the focus is on Islamic radicalisation, especially when 9/10 people thought to be at risk aren’t
  • It doesn’t stop everyone from being radicalised, even though so many people who aren’t at risk are caught in its net, the very existence of the Prevent agenda could just make those people who are inclined to get radicalised to be more cautious.
  • It means an increased level of surveillance of some people (links to categorical suspicion nicely).
  • It’s something else teachers now have to do on top of teaching
  • Should schools be politicised in this way?

Sources:

  1. Prevent – Advice for Schools (Department for Education)
  2. BBC News Article (December 2016) – Arguments for Prevent, and some problems
  3. Analysis – the Prevent strategy and its problems
  4. The Guardian – lots of articles criticizing Prevent
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