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Missing Bethnal Green Academy students 'not radicalised' on school site

The headteacher of three schoolgirls feared to have left the country to join fighters of Islamic State (Isis) said there was "no evidence" radicalisation took place at the academy.

Mark Keary, principal of the Bethnal Green Academy in east London, today issued a statement saying he was "deeply shocked and saddened" by the news that three of his students were reported missing having boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey from Gatwick Airport.

Police and other security services are attempting to track down Amira Abase, 15, Shamina Begum, 15 and Kadiza Sultana, 16, who are believed to be travelling towards Isis-controlled parts of Syria.

The girls’ disappearance follows that of another 15-year-old student from Bethnal Green Academy who went missing in December after travelling to Syria via Turkey.

In his statement, Mr Keary said the police spoke to that student’s friends and found there was “no evidence that the girls were at risk of being radicalised or absconding”.

“The police have also confirmed that the families of the missing girls were unaware of their plans to leave the country,” he added.

It is believed the girls may have been recruited to join Isis fighters via social media websites, including Twitter and Facebook.

Mr Keary made clear that access to social media networks was “strictly regulated” at the school, while students were unable to access Twitter or Facebook on academy computers.

“With such measures in place, police have advised us that there is no evidence that radicalisation of the missing students took place at the academy,” he said. 

Staff, as well as governors, at the school have been briefed about the situation by the police, while parents were sent a letter on Saturday. Individual year group assemblies have been held this morning, Mr Keary said, with “all professional support agencies” on hand.

Mr Keary said the school was “extremely proud” of the “exceptional learning experience” provided to students at his school.

“A core aspect of our ethos is to promote the British values of democracy, tolerance and respect,” he said. “Particularly respect, for other cultures and this is taught through a wide variety of curriculum topics and learning programmes. We also operate an outstanding system of pastoral care and personal support, which aims to ensure that all students are comfortable addressing any issues or concerns to members of staff.”

Teachers at Bethnal Green Academy will attempt to provide a “business as usual” approach to its students, the statement added, with the school being urged by police not to make any further statements as it was a “live investigation”.

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Trojan Horse: Gove's 'British values' in schools is a 'knee-jerk' response, critics warn - 10 June 2014

The TES podcast - What are British values? - 6 February 2015

Nicky Morgan: Paris atrocities show importance of teaching British values - 15 January 2015

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