The Prevent duty – top tips and resources to support your whole school approach

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:

  1. Expectations for schools
  2. British Values – the golden thread in the curriculum:
  3. Teaching Primary pupils about extremism and preparing for transition
  4. Raising awareness through assemblies
  5. Equipping staff to deal with challenging questions or controversial issues
  6. Engaging parents                                        

  1. Expectations for Schools:

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:

  • Student councils to promote pupil participation in a democratic way
  • Circle time to promote critical thinking and opportunities to discuss current affairs
  • International days/visits to places of worship to celebrate cultural awareness
  • Fundraising initiatives to raise awareness and support for global humanitarian issues, e.g. the plight of refugees
  • Peer-mentoring programmes to build resilience, promote respect, social activism and support
  • Debating clubs to discuss local, national and global issues
  • Visits from authorities such as the police and youth justice organisations to reinforce the importance of the rule of law

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:

  • Safer Internet Day – February
  • World Social Media Day – June
  • World Refugee Day – June
  • Anti-bullying Week – November

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

  • Research from Ofcom’s findings suggests more young people today prefer watching content on YouTube to TV.
  • Although schools will be providing appropriate monitoring & filtering in line with KCSIE’s statutory guidance, this doesn’t necessarily mean that young people won’t see age inappropriate content through their friends’ devices, Bluetooth or other avenues.

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:

  • Trust Me – lesson plans, presentations and guidance from LGfL and Childnet for primary and secondary teachers to start discussions around critical thinking, with a focus on content, contact, and propaganda material
  • fakenews.lgfl.net – cross-curricular activities, lesson plans, quizzes and videos to distinguish between fake and real news
  • IPrevent – guidance, interactive quizzes and case studies to support teachers, pupils and parents around extremism, grooming and cyberbullying
  • Tower Hamlets Prevent resources – lesson plans and activities for to support tutor discussion, assemblies and classroom discussion

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.

Do feel free to contact us or post a comment if you have any further questions, or would like further information on this topic. Email safeguarding@lgfl.net or follow us @LGfLDigiSafe

Everyone is talking about the Age Appropriate Design Code – so how will this upcoming legislation protect our children online?

Last month, after lenthy campaigning, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released their much anticipated Age Appropriate Design Code. You may have heard about this groundbreaking initiative, currently under consultation until 31st May 2019. But what exactly is it and why does it affect you?

Aimed at providers of social media platforms, content streaming services, online games, apps, devices, search engines and other websites, it outlines a code of practice for online services ‘likely to be accessed by children in the UK’. Through a set of 16 robust standards it ensures that the best interests of the child are the primary condition during the design and development phase. In doing so, it paves the way for parents and children to make informed choices and exercise control. This is vital, since many online services frequented by children were initially designed with adults in mind, well before the advent of new technologies when significant legislation around data protection and consumer rights enabled these services to bypass basic online safeguarding principles. It is worth noting also that the code is not restricted to services specifically directed at children, but are nonetheless likely to be used by under-18s, so even if the service claims to target adults, documented evidence is required to demonstrate that children are not likely to access the service in practice.

Why am I so excited?

As educators we have come a long way in raising awareness of risk and empowering pupils, parents and carers with strategies to stay safe online as part of our duty of care. Yet we all know that children are only as safe as the environment they occupy – their online world is a little like William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’, the only difference being that here they inhabit a virtual island, unregulated and lacking in adult supervision, where they are unwittingly manipulated into forfeiting their personal information by entities masked behind the anonymity of their screens. A recent report by the Norwegian Consumer Council, Deceived by Design, warns that many big tech companies currently employ psychologists to design ‘sticky’ environments that nudge children to spend more time online and thereby generate greater profits. Tactics often used include the use of ‘dark’ patterns, or tricks incorporated in web and app design to encourage them to make choices they may not have intended to, like buying or signing up for something.

So last year when a group of pupil cybermentors at Greenford High School were invited to partake in a focus group by Revealing Reality, commissioned by the ICO to inform the Code’s development, I was thrilled. Their concerns were evident from the start, ranging from a lack of clarity around default privacy settings on social media, and the adult terminology used in terms and conditions notices, to confusion about how their data was being used and indirect ways their location and personal information could be tracked. Many also pointed out the varied strategies employed to extend their time online, such as positive feedback loops, reward cycles and forfeiting points if they paused in the middle of a game. Some pupils also admitted compromising these concerns, believing they had to agree to certain terms at the cost of missing out on these services altogether, in order to socialise and benefit from the apps their peers used. Seeing that their voices along with several others nationally have not only been heard but taken on board in shaping this vital piece of legislation is therefore great news.

A summary of the 16 standards from the code

So what does the Code mean?

You can access the entire document here – but I’ve taken the liberty of summarising key recommendations and significant nuggets that you will find useful for your discussions with pupils and parents below. These include, but are not limited to ensuring providers take responsibility for:

  • Establishing a high privacy default setting on all sites
  • Introducing robust age verification checks on platforms or treating all users as children
  • Limiting how children’s personal data is collected, used and shared
  • Disabling geolocation tools by default and providing an obvious sign for children when tracking is active, which must default back to off when each  session is over
  • Removing targeted advertising as standard, unless there is a compelling reason not to
  • Discouraging ‘nudge’ techniques from inciting children to engage in a certain way and keep them online for longer. Examples include Snapchat ‘streaks’ or Facebook ‘likes’, luring them to click on preferred options through use of more prominent buttons, colours or fonts, or making it ‘difficult’ to manage their choices. Instead of driving users to share personal data, guidelines require providers to ‘nudge’ children towards healthy behaviours such as taking screen breaks
  • Ensuring privacy information, terms and condition are concise, transparent and in age-appropriate language, with bite-sized explanations about how data is used at the point of access
  • Requiring companies to show that all staff involved in the design and development of services likely to be used by children comply with the code of practice.

And that’s not all – it will be statutory, with companies facing legal action for failing to comply, and fines of up to £18 million or 45% of annual turnover for serious breaches of data protection in line with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It’s worth noting that critics have pointed out that in treating everyone like children, the code invariably undermines user privacy by requiring the collection of credit card details or passports for every user, and is an attack on the business model of online news and many other free services, making it difficult to target advertising to viewer interests.

And whilst there are areas for clarification, I remain optimistic, and hope this has inspired you to discuss this ground-breaking code with your pupils – after all it will affect them and their insights are critical – so please collate their views, and respond to the consultation here. The safeguarding of our children online can only be effectively addressed through collective social mediation and critical thinking, focusing on the impact of online behaviour and environments. This requires a commitment by industry to take responsibility for safer online environments through improved design and monitoring, together with an inclusive and collaborative approach to education, with the child’s best interest at the heart of this. Furthermore, as technology rapidly evolves, it is vital for policy makers to keep abreast of these developments. Only then can we take an informed and consistent approach in addressing online risk, enabling young people to safely maximise the wealth of opportunities afforded by technology.