Schools are being “overzealous” in referring concerns to social workers as part of their duty to prevent pupils from becoming radicalised, according to claims in a report published today.
The research report published by the Department for Education looks into how children's social care workers in local authorities were responding to radicalisation.
Schools have a legal duty under the Prevent policy to identify children at risk of being radicalised and to take action, for example by referring their concerns to safeguarding teams.
However, the DfE's research found that social workers were concerned about the number of referrals they were receiving from schools and other services.
The report says: “Where universal services [including schools] were perceived to be overzealous or over-sensitive in their referrals, this was felt to be a potential stress on safeguarding and child protection resources."
Frontline practitioners in several authorities spoke of receiving referrals "that were ultimately found to be below safeguarding and child protection thresholds, which nevertheless resulted in time-consuming assessments and problems in relationships with families and young people," the report adds.
One example given was a referral from a junior school after a child had told teachers they were going to Syria the next day with their family.
A multi-agency meeting was called and police visited – only to find that the family had bought return tickets to Damascus for a legitimate family holiday and there was no case for intervention.
The social worker in the case said the process had created a problematic relationship with the family, and questioned whether the original referral had been appropriate.
There have been previous warnings that teachers felt they had insufficient training over how to deal with pupils whom they fear could be at risk of radicalisation.