Prevent: Anti-terror referrals most likely to come from education sector

A third of referrals came from the education sector in 2015-16, according to Home Office statistics

Eleanor Busby

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More people have been referred to Prevent – the government’s controversial anti-terror programme – by the education sector, than by the police.

Home Office statistics out today show that there were 2,539 referrals to the Prevent programme by the education sector from April 2015 to March 2016 – a third of all referrals made. 

This comes after the Prevent duty – which legally requires schools to “prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism" – was introduced in July 2015. 

Tes revealed last year that the number of people referred by education institutions to Prevent exceeded the number from the police in the third quarter of the 2015-16 financial year.

And new figures out today show that the Prevent referrals from the education sector exceeded those from the police in both the third and fourth quarter of 2015-16, bringing up the numbers overall. 

Prevent referrals

It is understood that the surge in referrals from the education sector was triggered by the Prevent duty being introduced – and the subsequent training and guidance. 

And the November 2015 Paris attacks are likely to have contributed to more referrals. 

The figures today also show that a total of 7,631 individuals referred to Prevent in 2015-16 and the majority (56 per cent) were aged 20 or under.

Once a concern has been raised about a child who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, they can then be referred to support programme Channel.

Those aged 20 or under make up the majority (80 per cent) of the 1,702 individuals discussed at a Channel panel and of the 381 individuals that received Channel support (85 per cent), statistics show. 

Today's statistics also show: 

  • The largest proportion (30 per cent) of individuals referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism were aged under 15 - a total of 1,504.
  • The largest proportion (36 per cent) of individuals referred for concerns related to right-wing extremism were aged 15 to 20 - a total of 271.
  • Those referred from the education sector had the youngest median age of 14.


Teacher training

The Home Office suggests that the education sector is "engaged and understands" the Prevent duty "as shown by the high level of engagement through education sector referrals".

In September, the Home Office launched a new counter-extremism commission to help to train schools and colleges to spot signs that young people are being radicalised.

It followed a Department for Education research report that said that schools were being "over-zealous" in referring concerns about radicalisation to social workers.

The Prevent duty has been unpopular with teaching unions. They have claimed that a lack of adequate training for teachers has triggered many Prevent referrals, leading to “false allegations” and overreactions in schools.

A Tes poll last year found that two-fifths of teachers said they'd had an hour of training on the Prevent duty – and that just more than half (53 per cent) of those felt this was not enough.

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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