Teenagers could learn terrorist skills in class

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Science teachers in England are giving teenage pupils the skills to become international terrorists, a Home Office ruling suggested.

The department placed a ban on an Iraqi immigrant, known only as AE, from taking AS-level courses in chemistry and human biology.

It claimed that the information provided as part of the course could be used to implement terrorist activities.

AE is in his mid-thirties and unemployed. He studied medicine before coming here and is suspected of having terrorist affiliations. So he has been placed under a government control order limiting his freedom and activities.

AE has been under the order since 2006, making it impossible to find work. His solicitor claimed that this is the reason why he chose to enrol in the two science courses.

Derek Bell, chief executive of the Association of Science Education, was puzzled by the decision.

"If you have a basic knowledge of things that cause explosions, it wouldn't take that long to piece together how to build a bomb," he said. "But you don't need to do an AS-level chemistry course to get that information.

"I'm sure you could find instructions on the internet."

Mr Bell added that any would-be terrorists could easily find the information contained in an AS-level course, even without attending classes.

"The information in AS courses is open and accessible to everybody," he said. "That's the whole point of education."

Richard Ashley, head of science at Royston High in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said the ingredients necessary for making explosives are often easy to obtain.

"Boys are always asking us to make fireworks for them," he said. "Anything that goes pop or bang. If they could make their own, they would."

But he also points out that terrorists do not need access to dangerous chemicals in order to cause trouble. They could drive a car into a building or douse a train seat in petrol and set fire to it.

"If a person is intent on causing an act of terrorism, you don't need a qualification," he said.

"The information you need is readily available. Of course, science teachers have the knowledge. But we don't teach it."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today