BRIGHTON – Britain’s teachers’ union has demanded the withdrawal of government’s Prevent strategy to identify children at risk of radicalization, saying it was stigmatizing Muslim students who were left afraid of discussing controversial issues in class.
“We want to keep children safe from those organizations who promote hatred and violence. But there are limits to what we can do, and Prevent is making that harder,” National Union of Teachers executive member Alex Kenny said, Press Association reported on Monday, March 28.
“Four thousand referrals in the last 18 months is not a sign that the strategy is working, it’s a sign that the strategy is flawed.”
In an appeal to Government, he said: “Listen to what we are saying, think about what we are saying, and stop what you are doing.”
Kenny was speaking at the union’s annual conference in Brighton.
During the conference, NUT members voted unanimously to ask the Government to develop an alternative strategy to safeguard children and identify risk other than controversial Prevent strategy.
Prevent strategy regarding schools has obliged teachers since summer 2015 to refer to police pupils they suspect of engaging in some sort of terrorist activity or radical behavior.
The policy has drawn criticism from many as stigmatizing Muslim students.
Recently, an independent assessment from terrorism legislation expert David Anderson QC said the duty had become “a significant source of grievance among British Muslims, encouraging mistrust to spread and to fester”.
The strategy was having a direct effect on Muslim students in schools who became less open to discussing controversial issues, fearing it would land them in trouble.
The fears increased after a series of events in which Muslim students faced troubles for silly reasons including a 17-year-old who was referred to Prevent for having a Free Palestine leaflet in his possession.
Other examples included a four-year-old who misspelled “cucumber” as something resembling “cooker bomb” and a 10-year-old Muslim boy who mistakenly wrote he lived in a “terrorist house” rather than a “terraced house”.
A 15-year-old student was also referred to Prevent after he clicked on the Ukip website to research attitudes to immigration.
“The best contribution teachers can make is to encourage discussion in the classroom,” Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary, said.
“But we worried that people are increasingly unwilling to talk about their view of the world – Muslim children in particular – because they are frightened or their parents are worried that their names will be put on some list.”
Gary Kaye, a teacher from North Yorkshire, agreed, saying the Prevent strategy created “suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom”.