One-in-eight referrals to counter-terrorism programme Prevent in Scotland were made by schools, while one child aged under nine was referred for fear of radicalisation.
Today, Tes Scotland can reveal previously unpublished figures that show schools have made 16 of the 131 referrals to Prevent since the duty – which imposes a legal requirement on teachers to report suspected extremist behaviour to the authorities – was introduced in Scotland in April 2015. Colleges and universities have been responsible for four referrals.
About half of the 131 people referred were aged under 19, while 18 per cent were under 14 and one referral was for a child aged under nine, a freedom of information (FOI) request has shown.
According to Police Scotland, because no targets were set for referrals to Prevent, it was impossible to say whether the number of reports from teachers was high or low. But in England and Wales in 2015 alone, 3,994 people were referred to the deradicalisation programme known as Channel and 1,319 reports – a third of referrals – came from the education sector, according to figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
The proportionately low number of referrals from teachers in Scotland was down to a balanced approach taken north of the border, said Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union.
Prevent training was generally delivered to teachers as part of broader training on child protection, as opposed to “single-focus Prevent training”, which in parts of the country would be “wholly disproportionate”, he said.
It was also easier to disseminate training because all Scottish state schools were attached to a local authority, unlike in England, he added. However, Mr Flanagan reiterated EIS opposition to Prevent. The union argues that the strategy threatens trust between teachers and pupils, and actually increases the danger of radicalisation.
The Scottish government has been at pains to stress that its approach to implementing Prevent is different to that of Westminster. The focus north of the border, a Scottish government spokeswoman said, was “to implement a balanced and proportionate approach to safeguarding vulnerable individuals from radicalisation”.
When asked if it was appropriate for a child under the age of 9 to be referred, the spokeswoman refused to comment.
This is an edited version of an article in the 7 March edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Tes Scotland magazine is available at all good newsagents.