As defined by the government, Prevent Duty is a school’s legal obligation to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. Prevent Duty has been put in place with the aim of helping children to better understand certain extremist cultures which exist in Britain today. It seeks to equip teachers and carers with the ability to identify children who may be “vulnerable to radicalisation” as part of a school’s wider safeguarding responsibilities.
This is an extremely complex subject matter; while we insist the importance of maintaining an up-to-date safeguarding mandate, the ‘space’ in which Prevent Duty operates is a grey area and requires great caution when enforcing.
Prevent Duty’s Pitfalls
As with all issues surrounding child welfare, correct safeguarding training is paramount. Within the context of Prevent, there are a number of problematic situations that all teachers must avoid. There has been criticism of the vocabulary and implementation of the processes employed, and it is vital to be aware of these.
Kalsoom Bashir, co-director of Inspire, works alongside Prevent to provide training and guidance to schools. She highlights the problems facing the youth of today and how media can play a pivotal role (both good and bad) in informing their decisions and developing their perceptions. Correct safeguarding training should always bring attention to this. It affects adults, too; it fosters stereotypes and stigmas, the social implications of which can cause far-reaching damage to cultures and communities worldwide.
Prevent Duty is meant to alert teachers to the possibilities of ‘non-violent extremism’; to look out for warning signs such as changes in vocabulary, withdrawal from social circles, or abnormal behaviour. Without correct procedure and training services, Prevent has the power to create barriers within Britain, which ultimately could leave children even more vulnerable to harmful influences.
The Benefits of Prevent Duty
We don’t want to scaremonger teachers into feeling like they cannot act through Prevent. In fact, we feel that our Prevent Duty is capable of nurturing and expanding community relations. It should be championed as a tool for culture and diversity education. At EduCare, we do all our prevent training online. Because of this, we can provide a top-of-the-range support network alongside our safeguarding training.
We feel that Prevent should be more about educating, rather than preventing. More about teaching young people the benefits of a multi-cultural society, because that’s what modern Britain is. Prevent can sit somewhere between Religious Education and PHSE and help students to understand their place in society, not stigmatise it.
It can be difficult to measure the benefits of Prevent, or how successful it has been. If the results of a legislation like Prevent are measured by the ‘number of people referred’, we can have trouble giving value to this number — especially considering the social complexities involved. Perhaps more benefit would be gained through a broader understanding of the context. Only then can we start to truly empower young people to prevent extremism, rather than be negatively influenced by it in any way.
Author Bio - Keir McDonald MBE started EduCare’s eLearning safeguarding courses 30 years ago, with the primary focus on safeguarding training. EduCare works closely alongside charities and education associations to provide the very best support available. In acknowledgement of his work and achievement in safeguarding children, Keir was honoured with an MBE for Services to Children in 2012.