Keeping Perspective on Prevent

It would seem that the Prevent strategy is a little bit of a political football at the moment. However, while the high-level discussions about whether it unintentionally marginalises groups or if it is even having the desired effect continue, it is still a part of the safeguarding strategy for all schools and colleges.

One of the most difficult aspects of safeguarding in regards to potential radicalisation is recognising when to report or when to be concerned. There is a very big difference, for example, between a teenager becoming politically aware and questioning the world around them (a process that we probably want to encourage) and the move towards a more radical and potentially violent affiliation. Similarly, devout religious belief is only an issue when those beliefs are manipulated towards radicalisation. Political or spiritual standpoints are not in themselves an area of concern, it is the manipulation of these by groups seeking to radicalise young people that is.

So, how do we spot the difference between radicalisation and perfectly acceptable allegiance to a religious or political group? Well, unfortunately there is no single answer to that question. We want to catch potential radicalisation as early as possible, because the sooner the intervention the faster the prevention will take hold. At the same time, any programme of observation, recording and reporting that is focused on a belief system is open to the dangers of accidental overuse and is thereby potentially further marginalising those in danger.

There are bound to be some mistakes made in a programme of this size. That said, cases of 4-year-olds reported for mispronouncing cucumber as ‘cooker bomb’ and others reported for accidentally writing ‘terrorist house’ instead of terraced house in a school project may well make good headline material, but they are probably few and far between. For the majority, reports are likely to be a balanced judgement call by a professional.

We should also remember that, while religious extremism is certainly still the most reported concern, right wing radicalisation is on the rise. Around 1 in 4 reports are related to right wing groups and in some areas of the country this spikes to a majority. Again, the professional needs to make an unbiased judgement on whether radicalisation is taking place, regardless of the target of the hatred.

Just some outward signifiers of the shift towards extremism, regardless of the group involved, are likely to be:

  • Sudden attitude changes
  • A more argumentative nature, particularly in relation to specific groups and a refusal to accept any contrary opinion regardless of the facts
  • Accessing extremist materials online or through social media
  • New social groups that feature a particular affiliation
  • The displaying of iconography such as symbols, flags, slogans, and so on

The amount, gravity and level of alert raised by the above, and other warning signs, will all be a factor in the decision for referral, so our online training will help you to develop a balance on this via a series of realistic scenarios.

The fallout from the scrutiny placed on Prevent during the recent election is yet to be fully assessed, but it seems likely that an overhaul is on the cards at some point in the future. Our Awareness of Prevent Duty training is regularly updated to reflect current policy and of course we will include any future changes as and when they occur, so you can be certain that whenever you take your training it will be current.