Inspectors will be trained to spot classroom extremists

10th June 2011 at 01:00

Inspectors will get specialist training to tackle extremist and intolerant behaviour in schools as part of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy announced this week.

Ofsted will be given the "necessary knowledge and expertise" to spot radicalism in the classroom by teachers and pupils, according to the Home Office plan.

The anti-terror measures, combined with the new set of teacher standards, will ensure action is taken against members of the profession who "demonstrate unacceptable views", according to the Government.

Inspectors will get the extra training as part of the new Ofsted framework being introduced next year. Specialist inspectors who work in independent schools - including private faith schools - will receive the support because concerns were raised about the "robustness" of the current regulatory system.

"Ofsted will ensure that inspectors have the necessary knowledge and expertise to determine whether extremist and intolerant beliefs are being promoted in a school and then to take appropriate action," the report detailing the new Prevent strategy says.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the changes suggested by the Government were a "sensible precaution".

"It is the responsibility of all of us in the profession to take every step we can to prevent the development of extremism," he said.

"It's equally important to ensure members of the teaching profession have all necessary information they need to be on their guard against the early signs of children being at risk."

But Nansi Ellis, head of research at teaching union the ATL, said it was unlikely those with extremist views would display them in front of inspectors.

"Wouldn't it be better to give training to the people in the school all the time - teachers?" she said.

James Brandon, director of research at Quilliam Foundation, the counter-terrorism think-tank, said teachers were keen to get expert help in tackling extremism in schools.

"There are schools in areas of London where there is a problem with extremism," he said. "We have been called in by teachers to talk to them about what they can do about this and to help them understand what's going on.

"Pupils have shown intolerance to staff and other children, and teachers aren't sure if they should tackle it because it's religious."

Home Secretary Theresa May has reformed Prevent, the UK's main counter-terrorist strategy, because of what she described as "serious failings".

It said that although there was not a significant problem in schools there was "some evidence of very limited radicalisation of children by extremist or terrorist groups".


Intolerance of the intolerants

- Training for Ofsted inspectors to ensure they can determine if extremist or intolerant beliefs are being promoted in a school.

- Specialist inspectors for independent schools to get more detailed training.

- Government to consider if standards for independent schools should be strengthened to protect children from extreme views.

- Teachers to identify children whose behaviour suggests that they are being drawn into terrorism or extremism.

- Schools still have a duty to promote community cohesion.

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