Children who make homophobic comments at school could be reported under new anti-radicalisation plans, Nicky Morgan announced today.
Asked about new guidance being issued to teachers to spot children at risk of being radicalised, the education secretary told the Radio 4 Today programme that homophobic remarks could be a red flag.
"It could trigger a thought - it would depend very much in the context in which that was being discussed. But teachers would discuss as they do already when they are concerned about children who are at risk of perhaps being drawn into a gang, or being exploited, or being neglected at home. This is a safeguarding issue."
She said under the Government's anti-extremism guidance, schools would have to "keep an eye out" for “changes in behaviour, conversations".
Nicky Morgan said that teachers will need to look for changes in behaviour in their pupils
Morgan said that doubts about democracy could also be a warning sign of radicalisation.
She claimed that teachers should be alert and would be given advice on how to report concerns but that schools should also be "a safe space for children to explore all sorts of ideas”.
Morgan told Sky News schools should be places where pupils can "explore the world around them" but learn British values.
"It’s also important to recognise that schools are a place where young people can explore ideas; they will explore the world around them. But it’s also a place for schools to demonstrate the teaching of British values; the values that we all hold so dear."
Morgan also confirmed the guidance was new.
"This is new guidance, we have been asking, obviously, schools to teach British values to teach a broad and balanced curriculum for some time now. But this is new guidance being issued by the Department for Education today, as I say, to reflect the prevent duty which comes into force tomorrow."
Sky News’ social affairs and education editor Afua Hirsch suggested that the plans stray into dangerous territory by confusing extremism and social conservatism.
The plan comes as the Times reported a Whitehall source said that “grooming” children with a view to radicalising them “should be dealt with in the same way as child exploitation”.
They added: “The extremists use the internet to recruit young people and schools should be teaching about the dangers of that.”
The new plans are part of the first wave of David Cameron’s “full spectrum” response to extremism in schools, universities and other organisations.
The Prevent strategy already appear to have caused consternation among teachers.
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."
Downing Street today said that the Cabinet discussed the next steps in its wider counter-terrorism strategy following the Tunisia attack.
The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman revealed that the idea of extending the anti-radicalisation programme to universities was now back in play.
The Liberal Democrats succeeded in blocking such plans under the Coalition, amid fears over curbs to freedom of speech on campuses.
But asked today about if it would be reviving plans such as universities giving prior notice for controversial speakers on university campuses, the No.10 spokeswoman replied: "We are look at that at the moment".
"The Prime Minister is clear that this is looking at the differing roles that different institutions can play in preventing radicalisation. It's not just the role of the Government and the police and the [security] agencies. Others have a role to play and therefore we are actively looking at what more we should be doing in terms of universities."