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The Importance of Prevent Duty in Education

Posted on Friday, 7th May 2021

The Importance of Prevent Duty in Education

The Prevent duty is a key responsibility for all education organisations to understand and act upon. The work of those in education is essential to stopping children and young people becoming radicalised, and preventing acts of terrorism from happening.

In today’s blog, we take a look at some of the key issues presented in the Prevent duty and how they apply to the education sector.

What is Prevent duty?

The government describes the purpose of Prevent as “to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.” Prevent hopes to avoid acts of terrorism by intervening before individuals become radicalised, and stopping them from committing acts of violence for whatever extreme ideologies they have come to believe.

Who needs to comply with the Prevent duty?

Simply put, every educational organisation has to conform with Prevent. This includes schools, early years providers, colleges, and further education centres. Prevent may also apply to other sectors which have duty of care for vulnerable individuals (eg. prisons).

What are the key features of the Prevent duty?

Prevent means that educational institutions have a legal requirement to fulfil certain obligations to reduce the chances of children becoming radicalised and exposed to extremist ideology. The duty has three core aims:

  • Respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it.
  • Prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support.
  • Work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation which we need to address.

What is extremism and radicalisation?

Extremism under the Prevent duty is defined as “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.”

Extremism can lead to individuals becoming radicalised, supporting or committing violent acts as a means to promote their extremist ideals. Radicalisation is defined as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups."

What is the prevent duty in schools?

Schools need to have robust procedures in place to fulfil their obligations under Prevent and protect students from the threat of radicalisation and extremism. Creating policies and systems which take into account the specific challenges of the community and surrounding area is essential to effectively identify these risks and offer the appropriate support.

Education staff must be alert to the warning signs that children may be at risk of radicalisation, be that at home or in their place of education. These signs could include sudden changes in behaviour or beliefs. If children are voicing extremist opinions they need to be challenged, with staff offering support and guidance to understand why they have come to believe extremist ideology.image shows Community

What are the 4 P's of Prevent?

Prevent is one the key principles the government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST). The stages of CONTEST can be summed up by ‘the four P’s’:

  • Prevent – intervening to stop individuals becoming radicalised.
  • Pursue – finding and prosecuting those plotting terrorist attacks before they happen.
  • Protect – protecting against attacks by improving security at home and overseas.
  • Prepare – mitigating the impact in the event of a terrorist attack taking place.

This process is used in order for the government to deliver strategies to stop terrorist attacks from happening and respond effectively in the event of an attack.

What are the vulnerability factors for radicalisation?

There are many different contributing factors that can lead to individuals being vulnerable to radicalisation. Those most at risk are individuals who are experiencing isolation from their community and support networks. This isolation could be caused by several factors including:

  • Issues within their family
  • Experiencing racism or discrimination
  • Mental health problems
  • Poverty
  • Experiencing emotional trauma

Individuals who are cut adrift from their support networks are the perfect target for those looking to recruit people for terrorist groups. Recruitment can happen online or by meeting in person. As these individuals are isolated from those around them, extremists use their ideology to give the individual a sense of identity and purpose. They provide simple answers to their problems, and can make them believe that they must commit acts of violence.

What are British values?

A key part of the Prevent strategy is promoting the idea of ‘British values’ in schools. These core beliefs are seen an essential part of British society which everybody has to follow and promote in their daily lives. These 4 key principles are:

  • Democracy
  • The Rule of Law
  • Individual liberty
  • Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith

It is the duty of every British citizen to follow these values. Actions and speech that openly oppose these fundamental principles is seen as extremism, as they promote committing crimes or opposing the rights of others to live free lives.

What is Channel in Prevent?

Channel is a legal requirement introduced under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 which focuses on identifying and supporting vulnerable individuals who are at risk at being drawn into terrorism at an early stage. It describes how authorities should make partnerships to identify vulnerable individuals, assess the level and severity of the risk, and develop plans for supporting them. Channel forms part of the overall Prevent strategy implemented by the government and the co-operation of the education sector is integral to Channel effectively targeting those at risk of radicalisation.

What is online safety?

In the modern day, the threat of online radicalisation is high. The internet allows people from all over the world to talk to each other, potentially allowing vulnerable people to access extremist ideas, leading to radicalisation. Because of this, online safety is a key component of the Prevent duty.

Talking to people online poses huge risks for young people as it leaves them potentially open to exploitation and manipulation. Children interact with people they have never met online, with those who are isolated in the real world even more likely to form strong bonds with people and communities they discover online. While a lot of interaction can be harmless, online communication can be a way for malicious individuals to build up trust with isolated individuals. This trust can then be exploited in many different ways, including through radicalisation.

In education, you have to ensure that those under your care are aware of the risks and are prepared for the dangers of the online world. Having the correct IT policies with filters blocking about potentially harmful materials when using school computers is the first step, but children also need to be aware of how to stay safe online in their private and socials lives. Children and young people need to be aware that not everything they read online is true, with extremist individuals often deliberately spreading misinformation to pursue their political agendas.

image shows Online Safety Prevent

Prevent training:

It is a legal requirement for staff to have completed the necessary training to be able to implement Prevent Duty effectively in education. At ESS, we provide we provide the Prevent Duty e-learning course which provides all the training via our e-learning platform. This allows learners to complete their training from home, at a time and pace which works for them.

As safeguarding and Prevent duty work hand-in-hand, why not read our blog ‘The Importance of Safeguarding in Education’? This blog will help you understand your safeguarding responsibilities in the education sector.

For a complete rundown of our training courses, head over to our online course index.