Radicalisation in schools and The Prevent Duty

This page provides information on the ‘Prevent Duty’ placed on schools to safeguard pupils from radicalisation and being drawn into terrorism. It includes government definitions on terrorism, radicalisation and extremism and explains the obligations of schools to assess risk, train staff, educate pupils and refer to the ‘Channel’ programme when there is a need for intervention.

Section 26 in conjunction with Schedule 6 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on schools in the exercise of their functions to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

What is terrorism?

Terrorism is defined in section 1 Terrorism Act 2000 as the use or threat of action designed to:

  • influence the government or an international governmental organisation; or
  • intimidate the public, or a section of the public;

made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause; and it involves or causes:

  • serious violence against a person;
  • serious damage to a property;
  • a threat to a person’s life;
  • a serious risk to the health and safety of the public; or
  • serious interference with or disruption to an electronic system.

What is radicalisation?

Radicalisation is defined as the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism –
HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, Annex A: Glossary of Terms.

What is extremism?

Extremism is defined as vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. It includes calls for the death of members of armed forces, whether in the UK or overseas – HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, Annex A: Glossary of Terms.

What obligations are schools under to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism?

From July 2015, all schools, registered early years childcare providers and childcare providers are under a duty to have due regard to the need to prevent pupils from being drawn into terrorism. Further information is contained in Department for Education’s Departmental Advice on “The Prevent Duty – Departmental Advice for schools and childcare providers” (June 2015).

“Due regard” means that schools should place an appropriate amount of weight on the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism when they consider all the other factors relevant to how they carry out their usual functions.

Being drawn into terrorism includes both violent extremism and non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can promote views which terrorists exploit.

This duty is known as the ‘Prevent Duty’ and applies to the following educational establishments:

  • maintained schools and nurseries;
  • non-maintained special schools;
  • academies and free schools;
  • independent schools;
  • alternative provision academies;
  • 16–19 academies;
  • pupil referral units;
  • registered childcare providers;
  • providers of holiday schemes for disabled children.

Schools and childcare providers should have clear policies and procedures in place that protect children at risk of radicalisation;  this can be contained within existing safeguarding policies.

To check what type of school your child attends, see our page on Types of Schools and use this resource.

What is The Prevent Duty?

The Prevent Duty has 4 themes:

  1. Risk Assessment: School staff must understand the risks affecting children and young people in their local area, with the assistance of the Local Authority and the Police, and identify those children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation. This requires school staff to be alert to changes in a child or young person’s behaviour and exercise professional judgement as to whether they are at risk.
  2. Staff Training: The Home Office has developed an interactive facilitated ‘Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent’ (WRAP) aimed at training frontline staff such as teachers on how to identify children at risk.
  3. IT Policies: Schools must take steps to keep children safe online such as through appropriate filtering of school web-page content.
  4. Working in Partnership: Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) must co-ordinate local agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Local Authorities can also provide dedicated Prevent co-ordinators to work with schools in high-priority areas.

It is also imperative that Local Authorities engage with parents and families.

Do schools have more powers when it comes to radicalisation?

The Prevent Duty does not give school staff any new powers or functions. Teachers are already expected to identify safeguarding concerns in relation to pupils at their school. The Prevent Duty simply places emphasis on the need to prevent pupils from falling under the influence of extremist ideas and integrate this into the school’s ongoing safeguarding role and syllabus.

The government guidance emphasises that schools should remain safe places for children to debate controversial issues and develop the critical thinking skills and knowledge needed to be able to challenge extremist arguments.  Schools must now ‘actively promote’ fundamental British values of democracy, which are explained to be the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Teachers must show how their work with pupils has been effective in doing so. 

Ofsted, in its inspection of schools, will check how the school is educating pupils to prevent radicalisation and extremism.

What should be involved in a risk assessment?

The duty to assess a child’s vulnerability to radicalisation is critical to the Prevent Duty. Teachers are not required to conduct their own investigation into any concerns but must have an understanding of the risks affecting children and young people in their area, and a specific understanding of how to identify individuals at risk and how to support them.

 The government has launched an Education Against Hate website, designed to give parents, teachers and school leaders practical advice on protecting children from extremism and radicalisation.

What is Channel?

Channel is a multi-agency programme designed to provide early intervention for children (and adults) most at risk of being drawn into terrorism. The panel is chaired by the Local Authority, but includes those within the criminal justice system, education, child and health care providers. It also includes the Channel Police Practitioner (CPP) who is the coordinator.  The CPP is the initial point of contact and their role is to assess whether or not the case shows a genuine vulnerability to extremism and whether it is appropriate for Channel.

The 3 key stages of Channel are:

  1. to identify individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism;
  2. to assess the nature and extent of that risk; and
  3. to develop the most appropriate support plan for the individuals concerned.

Channel support should be reassessed every 3 months, to ensure that the progress identified in the plan is being achieved. If necessary, the child’s plan can be reassessed more frequently. However all cases should be reviewed by the panel at 6 months and again at 12 months from the point at which the child leaves the process.

Whose consent is needed for Channel?

Participation in Channel is voluntary and therefore requires the consent of a child’s parent or guardian in advance of support measures being put in place. If a parent or guardian does not give consent, Children’s Services can give consent on behalf of the child where it is apparent that some of the vulnerabilities present may be a result of the child’s home environment. In this situation, the Channel Panel and Children’s Services may determine that a child is a child in need and Children’s Services must carry out statutory assessments under section 17, or section 47 of the Children Act 1989, where the child is thought to be at risk of significant harm. 

As part of the programme, information about a child will be shared between multi-agency partners, including the Police. Parents or guardians must give their consent beforehand, unless Children’s Services give their consent in place of the parents.

Who can make a referral to Channel?

Referrals to Channel can come from anyone who has concerns about individuals who may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. Referrals are most likely to come from youth offending teams, social services, health, the Police, and educational establishments such as schools.

Staff and governors can raise concerns relating to extremism directly with the Department for Education:

Dedicated helpline: 020 7340 7264

If you have any child safeguarding concerns including radicalisation you should contact Children’s Services and/or the NSPCC.

In the event of an immediate risk you should contact the police.

What can I do if I am dissatisfied with the approach of the school or Children’s Services under the Prevent Duty?

If you believe that a school or governing body has not followed its own policies and procedures or the government guidance in exercising its duties, you should make a complaint to the relevant body. See our page on Complaints to Schools for details on how to do this.

If you believe that Children’s Services has not followed its own policies and procedures or the government guidance in exercising its duties, then you should make a complaint to children’s services. See our How to Guide on Complaints against Children’s Services.

If you believe that you are or your child is being discriminated against, you should contact the Equality Advisory Support Service.

Further information

For further information on the Prevent duty and radicalisation in schools see the following resources:

Department for Education, The Prevent duty: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers (June 2015)

Department for Education), Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools (November 2014

HM Government,

HM Government, Working together to safeguard children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (March 2015)

HM Government, Channel Duty Guidance Protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism (2015)