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  1. #21
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    Prevent strategy stigmatising Muslim pupils, say teachers

    School and college staff question effectiveness of anti-radicalisation drive and say it undermines inclusion efforts

    Monday 3 July 2017 15.42 BST Last modified on Monday 3 July 2017 17.59 BST

    Teachers fear Muslim pupils are being increasingly stigmatised as a result of the government’s Prevent strategy in schools and colleges, potentially making them reluctant to share concerns about extremism, according to research.

    School and college staff who were surveyed for the study by Coventry, Durham and Huddersfield universities also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the strategy, warning that genuine cases of students being drawn into terrorism were unlikely to be picked up.

    They warned that the Prevent duty, introduced two years ago as part of the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, is undermining efforts to build an inclusive environment in schools and colleges for students from diverse backgrounds.

    The lead investigator, Dr Joel Busher from Coventry University’s centre for trust, peace and social relations, said: “Approaching Prevent as part of safeguarding appears largely to have been accepted by schools and colleges and has helped to foster fairly widespread confidence about the duty.

    “However, linking the duty to the promotion of ‘fundamental British values’ – and in particular the pressure on schools and colleges to emphasise the ‘Britishness’ of these values – is often seen as more problematic.

    “We heard about fears that this element is both hampering effective curriculum work around shared values and democratic citizenship, and creating uncertainty about the focus of the Prevent duty.”

    The study comes as the government prepares to announce an expansion of Prevent after a Whitehall internal review.
    Though small-scale, the universities’ study provides a valuable insight into the views of those responsible for implementing the duty in schools and colleges, and the impact it may be having on their students.

    As a result of their findings, the team behind the study called for urgent research into how, if at all, the Prevent duty has affected student experiences.

    According to the study, staff were concerned that Muslim students may feel singled out by the Prevent strategy. A minority warned that it could backfire and that, rather than preventing vulnerable young people from being drawn into terrorism, it risked fuelling a sense of being marginalised by state and society among Muslims.

    Prevent has been widely criticised since it came into force in July 2015, for the first time placing a legal responsibility on schools and colleges to play their role in preventing students joining extremist groups and carrying out terrorist activities.

    They are required to refer any concerns about students to a local Prevent body, which then decides if further action needs to be taken. They are also expected to build resilience against extremism by promoting “fundamental British values”.

    On the positive side, the study found that schools and colleges felt largely confident about implementing the Prevent duty as part of their safeguarding duties. It failed to identify widespread resistance to the scheme and, despite earlier fears, found little evidence that it had limited free speech, thanks to efforts by staff to set up debating clubs and encourage Prevent-related discussion in classrooms.

    But many of those who took part expressed concern about what they described as an ill-conceived link between Prevent and the promotion of “fundamental British values”, which they said undermined efforts to promote shared values.

    Busher said: “Widespread and sometimes acute concerns about possible feelings of stigmatisation among Muslim students highlight an urgent need for systematic evaluation of how, if at all, the Prevent duty has impacted on student experiences.”

    The study involved in-depth interviews with 70 education professionals in 14 schools and colleges in West Yorkshire and London, and eight Prevent practitioners at local authority level.

    Researchers also conducted a national online survey of 225 school and college staff and discussion sessions with Muslim organisations, school and college staff, education trade unions, government departments and local authorities.

    “It is likely to be some years before we are able to truly assess the impact of the Prevent duty and further research is needed,” said Busher. “In the meantime, we hope that this research can serve as a stimulus for constructive yet critical discussion about what the Prevent duty means for schools and colleges.”

    Responding to the study, University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “This report again raises the issue of increased stigmatisation of Muslim students and the bizarre focus on ‘British values’. There is a risk that closing down debate drives a subject underground, and makes people less likely to speak up or out.

    “Some of the subjects up for debate may be difficult ones, but shying away from them is no way to deal with any issue. The government could lead by example and commission an independent report into the impact and effectiveness of Prevent in schools, colleges and universities.”

    The Department for Education said the Prevent duty was about helping to keep children safe and equipping them with the knowledge to question extremist and radical views. “This report shows that not only is there widespread understanding of this but schools and colleges are confident about how to deliver it in the classroom.

    “Schools and colleges also agree the suggestion Prevent shuts down debate or discussion of controversial issues is simply not the case. We will continue to help schools and colleges with the Prevent duty by providing guidance, support and teaching resources through our Educate Against Hate website.”


  2. #22
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    Prevent scheme 'built on Islamophobia and should be axed'

    The government's anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, is "ineffective and counterproductive" and should be withdrawn, according to a new report.

    Racial equality organisation JUST Yorkshire says it is "built on a foundation of Islamophobia and racism".

    The report was based on interviews with 36 people including students, faith leaders and academics.

    The Home Office said it was one of a number of reports to "peddle falsehoods and create myths".

    A Prevent coordinator also questioned its methodology, saying the document was "confusing".

    Created in 2003, Prevent is one of four strands of the government's counter-terrorism strategy, known as Contest.

    According to the Home Office, its aim is "to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism".

    It aims for police and other organisations to build relations across the UK and requires faith leaders, teachers, doctors and others to refer any suspicions about people to a local Prevent body.

    The scheme has been criticised by some MPs, the National Union of Teachers and Muslim Council of Britain, while JUST Yorkshire says it has a "disproportionate and and discriminatory" focus on Muslim communities.


    Report author Dr Waqas Tufail, said: "Our independent report has engaged with grassroots perspectives and has highlighted the many harms of Prevent, particularly those impacting on Muslim minorities.

    "[Prevent] is broken, it's counterproductive and I think there is a lack of accountability.

    "This strategy has been in place for over a decade and there's been no discernable impact."

    However, Hifsa Haroon Iqbal, a Prevent coordinator, criticised the report's methodology.

    She said: "To base your judgment on an interview with 36 people, to state what actually is very much more opinions from newspaper reports and to claim that a strategy that has been working for a number of years is broken, I think, is misrepresenting it and is confusing people."

    'Bullies or terrorists'

    Asked about the sample size, Dr Tufail, a senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, said some academic studies used as few as 10 to 20 people.

    Security Minister Ben Wallace MP said: "The Prevent duty sits alongside the duties to protect people from sexual, bullying or criminal manipulation.

    "As a parent, if my children were being targeted by bullies or terrorists or paedophiles at school I would expect that such occurrences were reported and dealt with.

    "But this report seems to suggest such reporting be stopped when it relates to exploitation by terrorists."



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