Why the Prevent strategy is working for me

This teacher was initially uncomfortable with Prevent, but found good support when a pupil posted troubling material

One teacher explains why the Prevent anti-radicalisation strategy is working well

Prevent, the programme designed to support students who may be being radicalised, gets lots of bad press, including many calls for it to be ended.

Critics say it runs the risk of hampering free speech and civil liberties, and stereotyping certain groups.

But what does it look like in practice? 


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This largely depends on your school’s Prevent risk assessment, which should have been written by the school's Prevent lead (who may also be designated safeguarding lead). 

The assessment will tell you what training staff will get, what policies are being implemented, how guest speakers will be monitored, how online monitoring is conducted and what support will be offered to students who may be at risk of radicalisation.

Implementing the Prevent strategy

I became the Prevent lead at my school a few years ago. The training felt very different from other safeguarding courses I’d attended.

I was surprised that they asked for my passport number and I was told that this would be recorded by the police. 

In fact, most of the training came from the police, not from social services. I was told that it was my statutory duty as a teacher to report those I considered to be at risk of radicalisation. 

The course leaders were very quick to point out that radicalisation could affect anyone and come from anyone. They showed clips of far-right leaders, gangs and animal rights protesters. 

They were keen to highlight that the programme was designed to support the vulnerable. That sounds sensible, of course, but we have all heard the story of the student being referred because they said they lived in a "terrorist" when, in fact, they meant they live in a terraced house.

I initially felt uncomfortable making referrals, although a few years of experience have made me more confident about when to make a referral and how that it will be dealt with. 

Making referrals

Here is one such example. Two students recently went to a member of staff because they were concerned about videos their friend was posting online. The videos used sensitive imagery – including footage of 9/11 and Nazi rallies – to attack various religions. 

I called the student in for a conversation, along with the e-safety officer. I asked her to explain the videos, hoping she would say they were a joke and take them down. But instead, she said she hated all religions, and went on to make some racist comments. 

She said the videos were black humour but with a true educational purpose behind them. I explained why I was concerned and but she continued expressing anger towards all religious faiths.

So I followed the safeguarding procedure, filling out the form and making a referral. I wasn’t really concerned that she was being groomed, but I was concerned that she was encouraging racial hatred and felt justified in doing so. 

A week later I got a phone call from a Prevent police officer who was very good at asking questions, not jumping to conclusions or making any accusations or presumptions. 

He was concerned and sent me another form (eight pages long) to fill in. It took me two days to complete, during which time I spoke to the students’ parents, who were at their wits’ end and supported us contacting the police.

A week later we had a visit from two Prevent police officers to talk to the pupil, her mother and myself. 

They weren’t threatening. They were very honest with her. They explained what they are dealing with at the moment, and that, although she has every right to express her views, she needs to be aware of the consequences.

The student was clearly scared to start with, but was respectful by the end of the exchange. 

I am not saying that she changed her ways overnight, but she understood the consequences and clearly put more thought into what she posted afterwards.

As a school, we don’t spy on pupils and we don’t presume things without asking questions (just as we wouldn’t with any other safeguarding issue). 

But when it does get tricky, we need support and I was very impressed with the level that was available. 

I know not everyone’s experience with Prevent has been as positive and it’s important that those experiences are discussed, too, but sometimes we should praise a system when it works. 

The writer is senior leader at a school in Cambridgeshire

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