Meeting the new counter-terrorism duties for schools

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Recent laws on counter-terrorism and security bring with them new duties for schools. Amy Cook looks at what you need to know.

Last month, Parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (1), meaning that all schools will soon be required to help prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism.

Schools will be expected to follow the more specific and rigorous set of expectations that have been added to the current government guidance for Channel, an element of the Prevent strategy aimed at stopping vulnerable people being drawn into terrorism (2). They must also work to challenge the extremist ideas which are shared by terrorist groups and used to legitimise terrorism.

School leaders have already been asking question about how to effectively meet existing requirements for safeguarding pupils (3) and to promote “fundamental British values” (4). Headteachers and governors have been asking for examples of policies on preventing extremism and guidance on how to explain the associated risks to pupils of different ages.

We are expecting new government guidance and provisions for schools to come into force in the next few months (5). Until then, here are the five key points to help you prepare for the new duties.

Assessing the risk of pupils being drawn into terrorism

Under the new rules, you and your governors should be assessing whether any of your pupils are at risk of being drawn into terrorism. Your reflections should be based on your local environment: are pupils likely to be exposed to terrorist ideology, including extremist ideas, beyond the school gates? 

Ofsted inspectors already look closely at how schools keep pupils safe from such risks, so you will need to show that you have robust safeguarding policies in place. For example, if your school hosts visiting speakers, then your policies should set out a clear protocol for ensuring that these visitors are suitable and appropriately supervised when on your premises. 

Further education settings and 6th form colleges are expected to carry out more substantial checks. In the case of visiting speakers, for example, staff should ask to see the event content, including any presentations and footage to be broadcast, ahead of time. Be willing to cancel the event if necessary.

Working in partnership with your local authority

When putting in place measures to safeguard pupils from terrorist ideology, your governing body or proprietor should consider how your local children’s safeguarding board approaches this issue. You can find your Local Safeguarding Children Board online (6). When redrafting your child protection policy, be sure to adhere to government guidance on inter-agency working (7) and refer to locally agreed inter-agency procedures.

Training staff to identify at-risk children

Do your staff have the knowledge and confidence to identify children who are at risk of being drawn into terrorism? Are you certain they would be able to challenge extremist ideas used to legitimise terrorism? Do all staff know where and how to refer children and young people for further help? Addressing these questions is the key to identifying training gaps and skilling up your workforce to meet the new requirements. Prevent awareness training will play a key part in this.

Keeping pupils safe online

You can help to keep children safe from terrorist and extremist material by setting up appropriate levels of filtering on the school internet. Internet safety policies in further education settings should make specific reference to the new duty. The new rules do recognise that older students and staff may need to research terrorism and counter-terrorism as part of their studies or work, but expect institutions to be able to identify where online materials are accessed for curriculum purposes.

Managing prayer and faith facilities

While there is currently no equivalent expectation on schools, further education institutions and sixth form colleges are expected to have clear policies on the use of prayer rooms and other faith-related activities. Such policies should cover arrangements for managing the facilities and any issues that arise, including how access is managed after hours. Contact your local Channel coordinator (8) for advice on these arrangements.

  • Amy Cook is a senior researcher at The Key, which provides impartial leadership and management support to over a third of the schools in England and Wales.

Further information
  1. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015: http://bit.ly/1EXe565
  2. Channel: Protecting Vulnerable People From Being Drawn Into Terrorism, HM Government: http://bit.ly/1AiQ03z
  3. Keeping Children Safe in Education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges, DfE: http://bit.ly/1MruIHQ
  4. Promoting Fundamental British Values as Part of SMSC in Schools, DfE: http://bit.ly/1NJF1dz
  5. Planned government guidance detailed in a Home Office announcement in February 2015: http://bit.ly/1wtR2P0
  6. The Local Safeguarding Children Boards: www.successinschools.co.uk/list-of-local-safeguarding-children-board/
  7. Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, HM Government: http://bit.ly/1C6xfrm
  8. Local Channel co-ordinator: http://bit.ly/1C98Sr4


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