The 30-second briefing: What is Prevent?

In the latest instalment of her series that demystifies educational issues, teacher educator Sarah Wright explains the Prevent duty

Sarah Wright

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What is the Prevent strategy?

Prevent was brought in as part of the government’s policy on preventing violent extremism. The strategy says that teachers need to have "due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".

Essentially, it asks teachers to identify children who are vulnerable to radicalisation – and also asks us to be vigilant about the behaviour of colleagues and peers.

Is it controversial?

Prevent has been unpopular with teaching unions, which see it as raising unnecessary suspicions among children and colleagues. It hit the headlines earlier this year when a primary school child was investigated for using the term "terrorist house", when it was claimed he actually meant "terraced".

Isn’t keeping an eye out for this stuff just part of our safeguarding duties?

Prevent is seen as "front-line" safeguarding. The aim is for teachers to have a heightened awareness of the potential for radicalisation in our schools.

There is also a hope that by encouraging schools to teach about British values, we will equip children with the ability to challenge potential radicalisation for themselves.

Will people really feel comfortable discussing these issues in an environment where they could be reported for saying the wrong thing?

This has been another key criticism from the unions, which suggest that Prevent can actually stifle open discussion and make children aware of their own language to the point where they are afraid to use it.

So, how should we overcome this fear?

Training is absolutely critical. The strategy identifies that at the very least, a school’s safeguarding lead should be Prevent trained, but there are also online sessions available for all staff. Whether this amount of training will be enough to make staff comfortable with the subject matter remains to be seen.

Where can I find out more?

The 4 November issue of TES contains a special investigation into Prevent. Pick up a copy to find out more – or subscribers can view it online at

You can find the strategy itself here, and can complete online Channel training here and Prevent training here.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1

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