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Teachers will be forced by law to help fight extremism, says Theresa May

Teachers will be required by law to take steps to counter terrorism, the home secretary announced today.

Along with colleges and universities, schools will have a statutory duty to help prevent people from being radicalised, Theresa May told a counter-terrorism event in London today.

The measures will be brought in under the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which will be introduced to Parliament on Wednesday.

"We are engaged in a struggle that is fought on many fronts and in many forms. It is a struggle that will go on for many years,” Ms May said. "And the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been – we must have the powers we need to defend ourselves."

Under the new law, schools and universities would be expected to put in place “extremist speaker policies” in a bid to clamp down on possible radicalisation.

"The organisations subject to the duty will have to take into account guidance issued by the home secretary,” Ms May added. "Where organisations consistently fail, ministers will be able to issue directions to them – which will be enforceable by court order."

The home secretary's announcement comes just days after Ofsted raised concerns about Islamic extremism in connection with several Muslim independent schools and a Church of England school in Tower Hamlets, East London.

After a series of no-notice inspections, the watchdog concluded that pupils at the Muslim schools were at risk from “extremist influences and radicalisation”.

According to Scotland Yard, officers will be briefing more than 6,000 people at 80 venues including schools, universities, airports, shopping centres, cinemas and farms in a bid to engage the public and businesses in preventing attacks.

The terror threat level in the UK was raised from substantial to severe a few months ago against a backdrop of increasing concern over hundreds of aspiring British jihadis travelling to Iraq and Syria to learn terrorist ''tradecraft''.

The move today was criticised by human rights campaigners, with Shami Chakrabarti, director of charity Liberty, stating that the legislation had been “rushed through in an attempt to look tough in the face of terrorism”.

"So youngsters will have their passports seized at borders and others will be prevented coming home,” Ms Chakrabarti said.

"Even our universities must read from ministers' scripts on radicalisation. Another chilling recipe for injustice and resentment by closing down the open society you seek to promote."

Related stories: 

Ofsted: headteacher 'surprised' as school's extremist links lead to special measures - 21 November 2014

Ofsted: 'Trojan Horse schools have failed to improve' – October 2014

Trojan Horse: New school standards branded ‘unlawful’ by Christian charity – August 2014

Trojan Horse: Report finds ‘clear evidence’ of ‘extremism views’ – July 2014

Emergency powers announced to close schools with links to extremism – June 2014

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