Schools Must Prevent Not Procrastinate
Since 1 July 2015 independent schools have been grappling with 'Prevent'. How should your school be fulfilling its Prevent duty?
Recent media coverage suggests that some schools have doubts about their role in the Prevent strategy and many more are unsure about what precisely is expected of them. Consider the criticism heaped on the school involved in the 'terrorist/terraced' house case. Although the school may have misinterpreted an innocent malapropism, surely, in the circumstances, it was reasonable for the staff to discuss the incident with partner agencies and then rely on external authorities to decide if and how to respond. If we are to learn any lessons about safeguarding from child protection cases, it is that the welfare of every child must be paramount and sharing information is a key component in that.
Any harm that may have been done to community relations from the 'terraced' house case is perhaps more attributable to the way the story was subsequently reported in the media.
Tackling the problem of children being drawn into extremism and terrorism is a collective responsibility for all and schools have a pivotal educational and safeguarding role to play.
So how should your school be fulfilling its Prevent duty?
First it must have due regard to the Government's 'Prevent' guidance which indicates that:
- Prevent is an aspect of a school's safeguarding duties: schools must be alert to identify children at risk and protect them from being radicalised or drawn into extremism or terrorism.
- Being drawn into terrorism includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists may be able to exploit.
- Although the duty is imposed primarily on the governors, it is vital that staff too understand what Prevent entails.
Second in order to be able to demonstrate that it is properly discharging its Prevent responsibilities your school should, by now, have taken a number of steps. It should, for example have:
- Assessed the risk of any of its pupils being drawn into terrorism.
- Robust safeguarding policies in place to identify children at risk. The school's safeguarding arrangements must take into account the policies and procedures of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).
- Started working with local partner bodies, including the LSCB and local authorities, to understand the potential risk in the local area.
- Provided Prevent awareness training to staff and governors.
- Measures in place to keep pupils safe from terrorist and extremist materials while accessing the internet, including by having appropriate filtering in place.
- Updated its policies to set out clear protocols for ensuring visiting speakers are suitable and appropriately supervised.
Whilst recent events have emphasised the need to understand and discharge the Prevent duty, schools must respond proportionally. Schools must not allow Prevent to stifle healthy debate of controversial issues. At the same time, any school that is reticent about its Prevent responsibilities must ask whether it is doing enough to build pupils' resilience to radicalisation and extremism. Or, indeed, whether it would know how to act, if a pupil or member of the wider school community is drawn into terrorism.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Claris D'cruz on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors