We were delighted to be joined by a DfE Prevent lead last week for our very first ever LGfL DigiSafe webinar. You can now listen to the full audio here if you missed out on the day. As promised, I’ve provided a summary below, along with top tips, strategies and the latest resources to support you and your school.
Do bear in mind that with Ofsted focusing on equalities, safeguarding and the curriculum, this requires a holistic approach and is relevant to the whole school community – hence my summary may appear extensive, so do feel free to pick out whichever section is relevant to your role from the list below:
As you know, schools have a legal responsibility to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. What’s important to stress is that this is ultimately about safeguarding – protecting a young person from radicalisation is no different from safeguarding them from other forms of harm, such as gangs and child sexual exploitation. And from a safeguarding perspective, we know already that the dynamics and mechanisms around grooming are very similar, as are the vulnerabilities. With that in mind, it is essential to understand the threat to young people, so you can put the necessary preventative measures in place and engage effectively with parents, pupils & staff to ensure transparency and consistency.
2. Fundamental British Values – the Golden Thread in the Curriculum:
Whether we refer to Fundamental British Values or shared values, ultimately, what really matters is the values themselves and how they are embedded in school’s ethos and practices. Rather than teaching this explicitly, these values need to be promoted across the entire curriculum – a golden thread which permeates all aspects of school life. The curriculum provides many creative opportunities for promoting British values, with many schools already demonstrating good practice through subjects such as PSHE, RE, English, and Geography to introduce the concepts of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance. Beyond the curriculum, a holistic approach can develop a strong school ethos to further foster these values – examples of effective practice include having:
3. Teaching Primary pupils about extremism and preparing for transition:
Fostering positive values such as tolerance and respect for others will help build resilience to extremist narratives and develop a moral compass – many primary schools will already be doing this. For ideas and examples of effective practice, visit the blog by Twinkl published in collaboration with Educate against Hate. Several primary schools have incorporated additional strategies or programmes to complement their values centred approach to learning. These include adopting:
I’d like to stress that building resilience to extremist narratives doesn’t have to involve talking about terrorist attacks directly, and it’s important that teachers make a judgement about what is appropriate for their pupils. Many primary school children will however be aware of prominent news events including terrorist attacks, either through social media or their friends and families – so addressing these topics head on can be helpful to provide reassurance and put fears at rest. This could take the form of a circle time activity where pupils are encouraged to talk about their feelings and emotions. To support primary teachers, guidance is available at:
4. Raising Awareness through Assemblies:
Assemblies and collective worship sessions provide ideal opportunities to show how British values are relevant to all your pupils. These can include a series of themes around the building blocks of extremism, e.g. power, fairness, celebrating difference, respect, faith, tolerance and other issues contained within the values concept. There are several key dates that you can plan your assemblies around the school calendar, including:
5. Equipping staff to deal with challenging questions or controversial issues around Prevent:
Independent research from Coventry University has highlighted confidence in having difficult conversations as a key concern for teachers. There are lots of examples of good practice happening in schools, and a key focus for the Department is ensuring that good practice is shared and accessible in order to build teachers’ confidence to having potentially challenging or sensitive discussions – I’d like to point out that you don’t need to be an expert in this area – it’s about being there to listen, providing reassurance to your pupils and knowing who you can signpost to if you don’t have an answer. Your History, RE, Politics and PSHE staff will be able to offer valuable insights and knowledge, along with staff who have experiences or backgrounds from various cultures and interests.
And here are some excellent resources to support you along the way:
6. Promoting critical thinking and building resilience to online radicalisation:
In terms of how the risk manifests itself today, an obvious area of vulnerability is online, with extremists making extensive use of online platforms to incite hate, shape opinion and spread their ideologies. We must therefore assume that anyone could at some point be vulnerable online in the absence of protective factors. Unrestricted access to inaccurate content, misinformation and propaganda, together with the unregulated nature of the internet bring new risks, further exacerbated by the volume of online content available.
Points to consider
The good news is that as school staff, you are in a unique position to empower all children, across all key stages, to be critical thinkers, both off & online. Circle time, form time discussions and opportunities for debate provide valuable openings to help build resilience through the development of knowledge and support pupils to think critically and independently. Useful resources to build into your assembly and form time include:
7. Engaging parents:
Not all adults share the same use of social media as their children – so we also need to consider how to educate and empower parents and carers. Many schools have found it useful to invite parents to a school safeguarding session, which provides an opportunity to have a stall where you can raise awareness of Prevent as part of the wider safeguarding issues including online safety, FGM and CSE. Coffee mornings and parent evenings are also great opportunities to ask you pupils to present an online safety update, and carry out parent surveys. Remember to update your website with a link to Educate Against Hate which has an excellent section for parents, and you will also find some fantastic resources to signpost parents to at parentsafe.lgfl.net , including how to discuss a terrorist attack with your child.
A reminder that if teachers have a concern, they should follow their normal safeguarding procedures. This will usually involve speaking with their schools’ designated safeguarding lead who may suggest further discussion with the student or their parents. The Department for Education has established a counter-extremism helpline to avoid a situation where teachers feel there is no one willing to act on their concerns. Details are available on the Department for Education’s GOV.UK homepage and on EducateAgainstHate.com. There is also advice on this site about possible signs of radicalisation.