UK

Prevent Strategy Is 'Used To Target Young Muslims', Teachers' Union Motion Claims

The strategy has proved extremely controversial.

25/03/2016 08:50 GMT | Updated 28/03/2016 13:42 BST

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 NUT will consider 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, the Press Association reported.

For example, 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.

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Concerns have been raised about children who have been wrongly referred to police for comments made in the classroom

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 their annual spring conference in Brighton this weekend, 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 consider 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.

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Last year the Department for Education (DfE) issued advice for schools and childcare providers on how to meet the new Prevent duty requirement.

It said: "Schools and childcare providers can also build pupils' resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

"It is important to emphasise that the Prevent duty is not intended to stop pupils debating controversial issues.

"On the contrary, schools should provide a safe space in which children, young people and staff can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the knowledge and skills to be able to challenge extremist arguments."

Schools are expected to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism, which can include support for extremist ideas that are "part of terrorist ideology".

Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith Matters, said: "A counter-terrorism strategy is needed and those asking for it to be scrapped provide no alternative. Also, after 7/7, Charlie Hebdo, Paris, Brussels and other terrorist attacks, no government is going to U-turn on a security policy.

"However, what is clear is that the statutory duty of Prevent on schools for example, has meant that some teachers have over-reacted and some do not have a clear understanding that safeguarding means working with the young person and that over-reactions can cause huge fractures in trust between the young person, their parents and the school.

"This is why teachers need training and support, why framing Muslims through the Prevent lens only is dangerous and counter-productive and why we must constantly ask the Government to ensure that countering extremism in communities also includes the very real threat of lone wolf attacks by far right extremists against Muslim communities. We must not alienate the very communities who may be the solution to tackling extremism.”

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."