Prevent receives just 16 referrals from Scottish schools in two years

Date: 14th April 2017
Category: Non-discrimination, Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities

Figures from TES show that schools have made 16 out of 131 referrals to Prevent since the duty - which imposes a legal requirement on teachers to report suspected extremist behaviour to the authorities - was introduced in Scotland in April 2015.

One-in-eight referrals to Prevent in Scotland were made by schools, while one child aged under nine was referred for fear of radicalisation. Colleges and universities have been responsible for four referrals.

About half of the 131 people referred were aged under 19, while 18 per cent were under 14 and one referral was for a child aged under nine, a freedom of information (FOI) request has shown.

According to Police Scotland, because no targets were set for referrals to Prevent, it was impossible to say whether the number of reports from teachers was high or low. But in England and Wales in 2015 alone, 3,994 people were referred to the deradicalisation programme known as Channel and 1,319 reports - a third of referrals - came from the education sector, according to figures released by the National Police Chiefs' Council.

Experts have said that poor training means some teachers in England are referring unnecessarily.

The proportionately low number of referrals from teachers in Scotland was down to a balanced approach taken north of the border, said Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union.

Prevent training was generally delivered to teachers as part of broader training on child protection, as opposed to "single-focus Prevent training", which in parts of the country would be "wholly disproportionate", he said.

It was also easier to disseminate training because all Scottish state schools were attached to a local authority, unlike in England, he added. However, Mr Flanagan reiterated EIS opposition to Prevent. The union argues that the strategy threatens trust between teachers and pupils, and actually increases the danger of radicalisation.

The Scottish government have said that its approach to implementing Prevent is different to that of Westminster. The focus north of the border, a Scottish government spokeswoman said, was "to implement a balanced and proportionate approach to safeguarding vulnerable individuals from radicalisation".

In February 2017, the UK's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC called for the government to increase transparency of Prevent. In an opinion piece written for the Evening Standard newspaper, Anderson said that despite the successes achieved in diverting some young people away from violent extremism that "significant reform" was necessary. Anderson specifically called for independent oversight of the system, publication and debate of intervention criteria and moves towards greater openness to dispel claims that the scheme was an attack on civil liberties or the Muslim faith.

Prevent has been criticised by human rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for its collection and retention of data on individuals, including children, without their consent.

As written in Together's State of Children's Rights 2016 report, a number of Together's members have raised concerns about the appropriateness of using a network of education professionals in the frontline of counter-terrorism efforts. Roshni notes that according to its own research and experience hosting live events and national conferences, there is significant concern that these strategies have the potential to alienate children from different cultural backgrounds. There is specific concern that rights to privacy, freedom of belief and freedom of movement are being infringed directly by counter-extremism policies.

The UNCRC Concluding Observation recommends strengthening the oversight mechanism, including regular independent reviews, to assess and ensure that the implementation of the counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures, including the Prevent Strategy (2011), will not have a discriminatory or stigmatizing impact on any group of children.

Together recommends that Scottish Government should assess measures taken to counter terrorism in terms of their impact on children's rights. Measures should be developed in collaboration with those children most likely to be affected and be monitored, evaluated and reviewed on an ongoing basis.