NUT members fear the strategy encourages discrimination and racial profiling
Image: Shelly Asquith
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s anti-extremism program, Prevent, at its annual conference in Brighton.
Introduced in July 2015, the ‘Prevent duty’ requires schools and childcare providers to identify and report children who are ‘at risk of being drawn into terrorism’ and to build resilience to radicalisation by promoting ‘fundamental British values’.
Teachers have raised concerns that Prevent breaches principles of equality and rights and encourages racial profiling, particularly of Muslim students, and creates an atmosphere of fear in the classroom, which is not conducive to open discussion and critical thinking.
‘Schools’ best contribution to countering any behaviour that could be a problem is by encouraging discussion,’ said NUT General Secretary Christine Blower. ‘Some aspects of Prevent inhibit this and it is for this reason that we need a review of the strategy to find the right, and best way to protect children and young people.’
The motion also questioned Prevent’s reliance on the concept of ‘fundamental British values’, arguing that it’s unclear and that the principles of international human rights provide a more useful framework.
Prevent has been widely criticised over a number of its cases, including the referral of a three-year old child to the Channel counter-extremism program and the questioning of a 14-year old who had discussed eco-terrorism in a classroom debate.
Earlier this month, a nursery raised concerns about a four-year old whose picture of his father chopping cucumbers was interpreted as a depiction of a makeshift explosive. His parents say it was because the child struggled to pronounce ‘cucumber’ and the staff heard ‘cooker bomb’.
While the NUT accepts that teachers are responsible for the protection of vulnerable children, it is calling on the Government to consult the profession on on an alternative strategies.
In a separate motion, the conference condemned the Government’s failure to deal effectively with the migrant crisis. Blower commented:
“Schools and teachers play a key role in welcoming migrant and refugee children and young people to this country, and supporting their progress within schools. The NUT condemns the Government’s inadequate response to the current migrant situation, which has exacerbated the suffering for so many, including school-age children and young people.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Find her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.