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Prevent duty becomes law

Teachers are among those now legally required to take steps to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. The Prevent duty, introduced as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, requires schools, councils, prisons, police and health bodies to have ‘due regard to preventing people from being drawn into terrorism’.

Home Office Security Minister John Hayes said: “We have seen all too starkly and tragically the dangers of radicalisation and the devastating impact it can have on individuals, families and communities. The new Prevent duty is about protecting people from the poisonous and pernicious influence of extremist ideas that are used to legitimise terrorism. Protecting those who are vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us. The new duty will make sure key bodies across the country play their part and work in partnership, as part of our one nation approach to bring the country together to tackle extremism.”

The Government says that it has worked with the sectors affected to ensure they are aware of their new responsibilities, are able to recognise the signs that someone may be being drawn into terrorism and know how to access help and support. However Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “The jury is out as to whether extra statutory requirements are the most effective way to help young people stay safe, think critically, or reject engagement with groups who advocate violence. Already, in many schools, Prevent is causing significant nervousness and confusion among teachers. If pupil well-being and safety is the aim, the Prevent strategy is felt by many teachers to be counter-productive and wide of the mark. It risks closing down the very opportunities where the classroom can be used to develop democracy and explore human rights.

“Developing an inclusive curriculum for children and young people that supports the democratic values of a diverse Britain can only happen in a research-informed profession where teachers have access to professional development. It is vital that teachers are empowered and encouraged to use their professional judgement in how schools respond to individual incidents or concerns, or liaise with agencies external to the school.

“Teachers need opportunities to work together, and with local schools, to develop proportionate and sensible ways for schools to respond to the different risks young people face – one of which, for a comparatively small number of young people, might be exposure to individuals advocating violence.”

What the Government calls ‘frontline workers’ will now be expected to put into practice statutory guidance which was approved by Parliament and published in March, following a public consultation.

The duty will also cover universities and colleges but that will only begin when guidance on extremist speakers has been published. As reported in Professional Security’s July 2015 issue, the association of university chief security officers (AUCSO) heard at its annual meeting at Loughborough at Easter that the definition of who was or wasn’t an ‘extremist’ speaker was hard to enforce – nor had it been at all defined officially – as the speakers themselves understood well.


Ed Macnair, CEO, CensorNet said: “Whilst the new Anti-Radicalisation Law is a welcome one, the sad truth is that extremist groups attempting to radicalise our children online have always been just a click or two away; whether it is a Facebook group that one of their friends shares a posting from or a seemingly innocuous Instagram post that a family member may have ‘Liked’ in error. In fact, the problem has got worse since YouTube changed its recommended column to an ‘Auto Play’ feature where the next video in the list is played automatically, meaning a ‘safe’ video could be followed by something far more unsavoury.”

“Radicalisation is in essence another category to the growing list of the darker corners of the web like pornography, sites promoting criminal skills or hate crime – that it is our duty to protect the next impressionable generation from. Schools need to have safeguarding policies in place and protect pupils and staff alike from extremist material when accessing the internet. Every school should implement robust web security and content filtering technology to protect children from inappropriate messages and content. But in today’s mobile device and apps age, the web security technology also needs to provide cloud application control functionality that allows schools to monitor access to these social media sites and search the message posts for keywords associated with radicalisation. A solution combining web filtering and social media control can act as an early-warning system and highlight any pupils who could be susceptible to radical messages.”


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