06 May 2015
A series of seminars aimed at helping school and college leaders protect young people from being drawn into extremism and radicalisation will be held this summer.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is launching the seminars to offer support and guidance to leadership teams in response to new legislation and widespread concern over the impact of extremist propaganda on young people.
Earlier this year, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 placed a statutory duty on schools and colleges to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
Alongside a resurgence of far right extremism and Islamophobia, the UK is facing unprecedented numbers of citizens joining terror groups. Some 600 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are British citizens.
The ASCL seminars will help school and college leaders understand the duties placed on them; give them practical help and advice in safeguarding children in an environment which celebrates equality and diversity; and understand how propaganda on social media and the internet grooms young people into extremist ideologies.
The seminars will be led by highly-respected Birmingham headteacher Kamal Hanif, counter-extremism campaigner Sara Khan and ASCL parliamentary specialist Anna Cole.
Kamal said: "This is about having a greater understanding around the issues of radicalisation and extremism, how to identify situations and how to deal with them in an appropriate manner, without over-reacting and being alarmist.
"Young people spend a lot of their time on the web and social media and they can easily get drawn into extremist ideas without access to a counter narrative.
"These seminars will help schools and, in turn, parents, who often have no idea that their children are accessing this sort of information, to pick up the signs, and use the appropriate channels in dealing with these concerns. They will help to equip heads with the counter narratives to some of the false claims put out by extremists."
Sara said: "It is important for schools to understand the current threat of extremism and how extremists prey on children both online and offline.
"Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of myths propagated about what the statutory requirements mean for both schools and pupils. The seminars will clarify and help guide schools how they can safeguard children from extremists who seek to exploit them."
Anna said: "These seminars are about safeguarding young people, not criminalising them, so that school leaders are able to intervene in the right way at an early stage.
"The key thing is to put in place proper risk assessments and have an open culture where different views and ideas can be discussed in an open way.
"We want to reassure schools that these steps will help them meet the statutory requirements and protect young people."
Kamal Hanif is executive headteacher of Waverley School, in Birmingham, which was recognised as "outstanding" in 2010, 2012 and 2014. He has given presentations nationally and internationally on the Prevent agenda, which is part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and on community cohesion. He has also worked on the Islam and Citizenship Education Project.
Sara Khan is Director and co-founder of Inspire, a counter extremism and women’s rights organisation. After the 7/7 bombings Sara sat on the Home Office's working group "Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation". Inspire launched an anti-ISIS campaign in September 2014, ‘Making a Stand’ and has supported the Metropolitan Police's "Preventing Tragedies" campaign.
Anna Cole is ASCL’s parliamentary specialist and represented the association in discussions with peers and MPs over the Counter Terrorism and Security Act. She has previously worked as a solicitor and at human rights group Liberty.