British teachers need more help to prevent pupil radicalization
London: British teachers need more help to prevent pupil radicalization
LONDON: A UK government initiative to prevent young people from being radicalized is being frustrated by a lack of adequate funding and guidance say teachers.
British schools say they are struggling to implement the government’s anti-terrorism “Prevent” initiative due to a lack of resources.
Former teacher Bob Hindle, who is now a lecturer in education at the University of Manchester, told Arab News: “Teachers need more training and time allocated for Prevent.”
Launched in July 2015, Prevent in schools aims to prevent and root out early signs of radicalization in children, through various measures such as IT monitoring and education on “British” values – including freedom and tolerance.
The initiative also outlines a reporting process for monitoring suspicious activity.
Hindle said more resources are needed to fund “external” Prevent training in schools.
He added: “It’s important for teachers to learn from experts about how to implement the Prevent initiative, rather than self-teaching or in-school teaching, which is time-intensive and not as effective.”
The education lecturer said the government should also invest more in raising awareness of the program in communities to make it easier for teachers to roll out the initiative in schools. “We need more resources to help embed Prevent into the local community,” he said.
Hindle said that schools would also benefit from investment into cross-school knowledge initiatives or think tanks, where teachers could swap best practice initiatives and get support from peers.
He said that terrorism comes in diverse forms and this is why the initiative needs more investment
“The culprits can be male, female, educated or uneducated and this makes the work of counter-terrorism initiatives very hard.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the head of a sixth-form school in Birmingham, told Arab News: “The planning and proactive side of things [for Prevent] takes a long time. At the moment, we have long lists of things to do as we don’t have the resources or time.”
He added: “We want to do it in the right way, but we’re often under the cosh and have strained resources. To properly implement Prevent we need more training and time. But this could be a wider sign of the government’s austerity measures.”
The Prevent initiative in schools comes under the umbrella of general “safeguarding” duties, where pupils are monitored for signs of emotional or physical distress, or acting out of character. In practice, most schools have appointed their respective deputy head teacher as the safeguarding manager – this means, by default, the deputy head teacher will also be the school’s ‘Prevent’ lead.
Once a child is deemed to be in danger or acting out of character, the teacher reports the incident to the deputy head teacher who escalates it to the head teacher and a solution is sought – whether it’s speaking with the child and family directly, consulting with the child’s social carer or, in urgent cases, contacting the local police force.
Hindle said that Prevent is a “good” initiative but there are teething problems.
He said, “Sometimes Prevent means that kids feel they can’t ask questions, which is the opposite of what it’s trying to achieve. There is a danger of Muslim young people feeling that Prevent is a way to listen in on them when really it is just education against hate.”
Hindle added that he has seen an alarming rise in far-right extremism, as well as homophobia and anti-Irish sentiment — all of which fall under Prevent and general school safeguarding initiatives.
He said: “In general, there are a lot of grey areas in knowledge and research about what leads to radicalization. We need to look at unpicking some of the issues.”
Hindle added that there are many interpretations of behavior and sometimes what could be construed as problem behavior is simple “kids being silly.”
He offers the example of a pupil at a school in Bolton where he worked, where half of the pupils were Muslim.
“I remember I was there in the aftermath of 9/11 and there was a child who was putting up pictures of Bin Laden. He seemed to think it was funny.
“In the end, he was given a stern talking to, he hadn’t realised what he was doing – he just needed a talking to.”
The Home Office declined to comment.