Anna – not her real name – finds it hard to imagine a scenario that would prompt her to report that a pupil was at risk of being sucked into terrorist activity.
I bet Anna’d have no problem whatsoever reporting a pupil at risk of being sucked into ‘homophobia’ or ‘racist views’, eh?
Yes, this is the usual suspects, squealing in protest at the fact that, from 1 July, all schools will have a legal duty to prevent pupils being drawn into terrorism – defined as not just violent extremism, but also non-violent extremism that can “create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and popularise views which terrorists exploit”.
“It’s far from schools’ normal areas of expertise so there’s quite lot of nervousness and uncertainty about how best to do it – and the stakes are very high,” says Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
“If you think a young person is involved in criminal activity or at risk of being drawn into it, you’re going to report it. But the idea of conducting surveillance on students or taking on some sort of policing of students is alien to schools.”
“I’ve heard heads talking about conversations in their school that they’d regard as ‘incidents’, and felt were necessary to report to police under the Prevent agenda, which in my view didn’t require reporting,” she says.
“Some [headteachers] were regarding things as extreme that I would regard as exploratory.”
One was a discussion about whether the staff of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where Islamists killed 12 people in January, “had it coming to them” .
“It’s right for kids to discuss that sort of thing because there’s an ideological argument there and an understanding of religion as well,” Anna says.
It’s OK in your book to even entertain the concept that someone who draws a cartoon might invite murder?
Blimey! I don’t think it’s the kids we ought to be monitoring for signs of extremism..!
Marie …says, “We want our students to have opinions; we don’t want them to be passive and mindless.”
Really? You don’t seem too happy about them having opinions you don’t approve of, though…
Anna says: “My generation of headteachers don’t have a clue on the extent to which young people access social media. It’s unfathomable to us. How do you know what kids are exposed to? And how do families and parents know?”
Natural teenage curiosity may also be at play, Marie points out: “They might have visited those websites; it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily at risk.”
A government spokesperson says: “School staff should use their professional judgement in identifying children who might be at risk of radicalisation and act proportionately..”
Hey, it’s what you’re paid for! You ‘don’t understand technology’? Well, learn..!
But some headteachers worry that too much is being expected of them.
“We’ve got to realise the balance between what schools can do and the influence of the home, family and social media,” Marie says. “Schools can’t be held to account for everything.”
Excellent! You’ll stop demanding to have a say on all those other things that should be the domain of parents, yes?