Statutory Prevent Duty and Schools - Secret RE Teacher
THE PREVENT DUTY
The Prevent Duty came in in 2015 and it requires schools to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’
However, teacher training has always highlighted the vital role teachers have in ensuring the safety and well-being of the students in their care; and adhering to the new statutory requirements is no different from adhering to the normal safeguarding procedures.
This doesn’t just mean that there needs to be robust safeguarding procedures in place should a child get drawn into supporting violent extremist narratives. True safeguarding isn’t simply responding to dangers once they become apparent it’s about trying to ensure children don’t get drawn in the first place.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential that there are teachers within our schools who have the confidence to discuss controversial issues in the classroom. This responsibilitymighty often lie with the RE, Citizenship or PSHE teachers but it could be anyone within the staff body.
That is not to say that all teachers are suddenly expected to become experts on terrorist organisations and their methods of grooming. Rather, best practice would involve identifying the members of staff best placed to have these difficult conversations.
For example, it is perfectly acceptable for a teacher to say to a student who has asked a question about an extremist group ‘That’s a really interesting question, but unfortunately it’s not something I know a huge amount about. I know Miss/Mr …. is interested in this topic. I’ll get them to come and speak to you about it, and if it’s ok I’d like to sit in as I’d like to find out more about it myself.’
By getting the other member of staff to speak to the child, it ensures the conversation takes place. By asking to be part of that conversation it demonstrates to the child that you are interested in their views (they probably approached you because they feel more comfortable talking to you than anyone else).
THE MOST CRUCIAL PART
The most crucial thing is thatdiscussions and questions about issues regarding extremism/terrorism are not shut down. If the young person doesn’t feel they will be listened to and taken seriously or if they feel that they can’t talk about this with an adult they can trust, then where might they turn for information?
What we need to see in schools is staff with the confidence to discuss these sorts of issues and to know where to turn should they need additional help. This situation is now helped nationally with the creation of Prevent Education Officer roles throughout the country.
So why is it vital that staff have these conversations? It’s because many teachers and parents are not aware of the grooming tactics these groups use and the power of their propaganda.
Most parents and teachers will assume their children will not be duped into supporting terrorist organisations. This is completely understandable- when we see the horrific acts of violence perpetuated by these groups we instinctively think our children won’t support them. But this isn’t the full story. The press rightly acts in outrage after a terrorist attack but that isn’t message isn’t consistent with how these groups market themselves. Their recruiters release huge amounts of propaganda that shows them in a positive light; standing up for the oppressed and doing ‘humanitarian’ work. Add to this the power of conspiracy theories and the excitement for young people in ‘discovering’ something that their parents/teachers aren’t aware of and the propaganda becomes much more powerful.
MY EXPERIENCE and ADVICE
I have been a teacher for 14 years and if we can help teach young people to resilient t the messages thrown out by violent extremist organisations we can also build their silence to other forms of grooming such as Child Sexual Exploitation or grooming for gangs.
This is why critical literacy is hugely important. We need to teach the next generation that they shouldn’t just blindly accept what they are told or see and that if they do see something which sparks their interest online then they can speak t trusted adults about the legitimacy of the message.
By empowering our students to be critical thujones we can help ensure that true safeguarding takes places in our schools.
I’ll leave you with this: In 2016 the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year was post truth. It’s easy to see why with the unprecedented amount of Fake News there is out there. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The word of the year for 2017 was Youthquake which is defined as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. Our young people can make real positive changes to society if they are well-informed and know that they have agency.
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