So, what’s the link between Henry VIII and ISIS beheadings? What’s British about British Values? What’s the Prevent Duty? What are safe spaces and how do we conduct difficult discussions in schools? Can a young person wear a wristband supporting Palestine? What does Ofsted inspect around Prevent?
Critiques of the UK government’s Prevent strategy often centre round the ‘duty’ placed on schools and other institutions to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. This has been interpreted chiefly as being about Prevent’s risk assessment aspect, that is, the surveillance of students and identifying or protecting the vulnerable. Concerns then arise about a stifling of free speech because students (and their parents) become worried that they will be labeled as terrorists if they raise questions about what are deemed to be ‘fundamental British values’ of democracy, liberty and tolerance etc. Yet the Prevent duty for schools does say that risk assessment is not intended to stop pupils debating controversial issues and that, ‘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’. But is this side of the duty on schools captured in the Prevent training available?
Our Prevent (face to face and e-learning courses for teachers/practitioners and young people) training in ConnectFutures goes well beyond the government’s basic WRAP (Workshop on raising awareness of Prevent) training. It’s interactive, has practical recommendations and captures our research and teacher expertise around the Prevent strategy. Yet when we deliver our training to schools, we are finding that teachers still welcome greater discussion of practical issues of how to tackle the issue of extremism in the classroom. There are plenty of materials and lesson plans available, but embedding the necessary ‘knowledge and skills’ about extremism throughout the curriculum may need support and recognition. We find both primary and secondary schools doing excellent work discussing what is actually ‘British’ about fundamental British values. They are generating skills of argument and challenge from a young age by debating current contested topics such as HS2, Brexit, online radicalisation or the third runway at Heathrow. But our question is whether all schools and teachers feel comfortable about having a really open-ended safe space. Thinking of some of the issues in Islamist extremism, for example, can (or should they) discuss the caliphate and Sharia Law? Does one make curriculum links between Henry VIII’s beheadings and ISIS ones, or is that a step too far? What does OFSTED determine as the boundaries on this duty? These are questions we try to interact with.
But we would be interested to know what some of the questions are that emerge in your workplace discussions around Prevent, and whether further support is needed in tacking controversial issues around extremism. We would appreciate you telling us.
ConnectFutures is the UK’s leading training company, providing full/half day courses for staff and young people around extremism and safeguarding. Alternatively, you may be interested in our course, but prefer an online training session. This can be safely completed on your computer, at a time that’s convenient to you. More info: http://connectfutures.org/our-courses/