• Changes to Prevent duty guidance for schools by Mubina Asaria

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    Mubina Asaria (pictured), Safeguarding Consultant at LGfL-The National Grid for Learning, outlines the changes to Prevent duty guidance for schools…

    Following on from the independent review, the Prevent duty guidance has been updated this year, to reflect the UK’s current risk and threat landscape and promote best practice. And there’s some good news for designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) and leadership – the latest changes and updates do not place any new legal requirements or additional responsibilities on schools. Here is an outline of the seven key changes, along with some practical tips and resources to help schools to implement them.

    1. The guidance now has a greater focus on the ideological causes of terrorism which sets it apart from other acts of serious violence. Increasingly, Islamist ideology is resilient and enduring, Extreme Right Wing ideology is resurgent. Other ideologies which may seem less prevalent, still have the potential to motivate, inspire, and be used to justify terrorism. Conspiracy theories are on the rise, and these can also act as gateways to radicalised thinking and sometimes violence. So it’s important that DSLs and leadership are aware of the possible risks.
    2. Embedding age-appropriate online safety in the curriculum, and building young people’s ability to think critically, is even more crucial, as the internet has become the ‘preferred’ avenue for those searching for terrorist propaganda or contacts, and the predominant pathway for online radicalisation. There is continuing concern about the number of under 18s unknowingly committing offences, by downloading and sharing online terrorist materials; young people need the skills to be able to challenge, ask questions, and verify sources. To help young people recognise extremist behaviour online, and understand actions which could be identified as criminal activity, LGfL have developed Going Too Far1, a practical resource to help teachers empower young people online.
    3. Some language and terminology has also been changed. Rather than referring to individuals as ‘vulnerable’ to radicalisation, the new term ‘susceptibility’ suggests full agency over decisions to choose to adopt a terrorist ideology.However, this does not affect children as the Government recognises they are inherently vulnerable due to their age. The guidance has a useful and very helpful glossary which includes the new terminology.
    4. The risk and threat landscape section of the guidance has also been updated in line with the Government’s Counter-terrorism strategy (2023). There is a greater emphasis on proportionality to local risk, and schools should consider whether their risk assessments accurately reflect and account for these changes. Decision making should be informed by the terrorism threat picture, and any Prevent activity should be proportionate to the local risk, the setting size and provision, for example – a school in Ealing will have a very different risk picture to a school in Wales. To help with this, the DfE has launched new Prevent risk assessment templates – working documents for schools to understand the national and local risk and to enable a proportionate response.  Engage with your local authority or local policing to find out more about the risk and threat picture (sometimes referred to as a counter-terrorism local profile or CTLP) in your area. The DfE’s Regional Prevent Education Coordinators (RPECs) can also help identify relevant partners in your locality.
    5. Next, a new theme – ‘reducing permissive environments’. This outlines the need to create environments conducive to safeguarding, by limiting potential harm from radicalising narratives both online and offline. For example – ensuring appropriate IT filtering, and implementing visiting speaker policies etc.
    6. There’s also more clarity on training requirements. I recommend the Government’s online Prevent duty training for all staff, with additional in-depth training for DSLs and leadership, refreshed every two years. This enables DSLs and leaders to cascade knowledge and update staff and the wider school community, on relevant issues.
    7. A new national referral form has been introduced, for use by all Prevent partners. Schools should still follow their existing processes for sharing information, but any Prevent concerns must be securely transferred when a student moves school.

    Support and resources are available to help schools implement these changes. LGfL has collaborated with other organisations such as Educate Against Hate, to develop interactive curriculum resources for students, a staff quiz and relevant training for DSLs, leadership and staff, all available free to all schools at prevent.lgfl.net.

    Since the introduction of Prevent duty in 2015, the world has changed quite dramatically, and the way children and young people live their lives reflects those changes. Since the pandemic, many are spending hours a day online, often unsupervised, and are at greater risk of coming into contact with fake news, emerging ideologies and conspiracy theories, and a very different risk and threat landscape. We need to give our young people the tools to navigate their way through the challenges of a continuously changing world.

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