Teachers 'consider referring children on anti-badger-cull marches to Prevent programme', MP claims

MP says fear of Ofsted leaves teachers searching for excuses to refer pupils to anti-extremism programme

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Teachers are referring children to the government's anti-terror programme Prevent because they fear their schools will otherwise be marked down by Ofsted, an MP has claimed.

Conservative Lucy Allan, who is also a school governor, said teachers are sitting around thinking up scenarios which might justify referring a pupil.

Last year, more than two-fifths of teachers who took part in a TES survey said their training for Prevent had only lasted an hour or less.

Children who have been taken on anti-badger-cull marches or Fathers4Justice demonstrations are being suggested for referral, Ms Allan warned.

She said it is clear the government's flagship anti-terror strategy, which places a legal duty on schools to prevent children being drawn into terrorism, "is not working" and felt to be intrusive by the communities affected.

Leading a Westminster Hall debate on the topic this afternoon, Ms Allan said: "Prevent has moved, under the 2015 Act, from a cooperative and voluntary act of the community into a statutory duty, and I think therein lies the problem - the statutory duty.

"Because a failure to meet a statutory duty can have negative consequences, for example for teachers in schools where Ofsted will assess whether the duty has been met and a grading will be delivered with the achievement of complying with this statutory duty.

"And that will be reduced grading if they haven't complied with the duty."

She added: "And as a school governor I have seen that there is an incentive to make referrals under Prevent, because if you don't there's a sense that you might get into trouble, or that might have a negative impact on your school, or as a teacher it might have a negative impact on your career."

This has resulted in an "exponential increase" in the number of referrals, with one child a week under the age of 10 being reported, MPs heard.

Home Office Minister Ben Wallace said Prevent, and its support strategy Channel, can be "fine-tuned" but it has had many successes.

These include children who did not go to Syria because they were helped by the programme, and a 15-year-old boy in Lancashire who had been radicalised by the far-right but has now disowned those views and is in mainstream education, MPs heard.

He said: "I recognise that in some communities there is the stigma attached, that people don't necessarily trust parts of Prevent, but in other parts in other communities some people do."

He added: "And I absolutely agree we can always do more, and I am committed to do more, but ultimately Prevent is working.

"I can tell you that we have saved lives and we are preventing the far-right rising in other parts of the country and we are making sure young people have a future."

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