Role of schools and colleges in Prevent

Children and young people can be exposed to extremist ideology. This can hinder their social development and educational attainment alongside posing a very real risk that they could support or partake in an act of violence. 

Protecting children from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of a school's wider safeguarding duties and is similar in nature to protecting children from other harms such as drugs, gangs, neglect and sexual exploitation.

"Safeguarding vulnerable people from radicalisation is no different from safeguarding them from any other forms of harm." - Home Office, The Prevent Strategy

Responsibilities of schools and colleges

The legal duty of schools to safeguard vulnerable individuals is set out in:

  • keeping Children Safe in Education
  • working Together to Safeguard Children
  • the Children Act 2004
  • the Education Act 2002
  • OFSTED’s Common Inspection Framework
  • the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015

However, the role of education settings in the context of safeguarding those at risk of radicalisation extends beyond the legal obligations to do so. Schools have a role to play in:

  • challenging extremist narratives and the intolerance that underpins them.
  • creating ‘safe space’ environments in which debate and discussion is encouraged and in which students feel confident to share opinions and ask questions.
  • considering the impact of international and local events on their students.
  • understanding how to support vulnerable individuals.
  • building the resilience of students and of their communities.
  • allowing grievances to be aired.

Considerations for schools

In light of the above, schools may wish to consider the following questions:  

Do you need to update your existing safeguarding and child protection policies to reflect the potential risk of pupils becoming radicalised or engaging in extremism?

Do key staff know how to identify when a pupil may be at risk of engaging in extremism and how to respond if they do?

Is there potential for pupils to be inadvertently exposed to extremism, for example via their internet use or external visitors?

Are you creating a safe environment for debating sensitive or controversial issues so that young people and staff can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the skills and knowledge to challenge extremist arguments?

Support available

Westminster’s Prevent team are able to provide schools and colleges with support and advice to assist them in meeting the legal requirements of the Prevent duty and other safeguarding legislation. 

View information on available resources.

View information on staff training.

Last updated: 24 May 2016