December 2015

The know zone

  • Preventative measures
    The new Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a significant responsibility on schools and colleges and leaders need to ensure they have plans in place to help carry out their duty, says Anna Cole. More
  • Outstanding performance
    Expecting parents to show up out of a sense of duty to your open event no longer cuts the mustard. Every classroom has to be an ‘experience’ and the head’s speech must be a show-stopper, says Carl Smith. More
  • Laws of attraction
    The government has pledged to train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years. Here, ASCL members share their views on what would work best to make this happen. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Know your options
    Stephen Casey explains the new laws on freedom and choice in pensions and highlights what you can do to boost your pension at retirement. More
  • A common purpose
    Much of the philosophy of ASCL’s Blueprint applies to both independent and state schools so we should join forces to deliver it, says Barbara Stanley. More
  • Quick CPD wins
    Ten top tips to help you plan and refresh your continuing professional development (CPD) curriculum for staff. More
  • Providing direction for the next generation
    Careermap is a leading new website for 16–24 year-old’s looking for a pathway into apprenticeships and early careers. Since its launch earlier this year, the website is rapidly becoming the go-to place for young people seeking new opportunities in all career sectors. More
  • Professional Learning
    When describing your school’s professional learning, how many of these points can you say yes to? More
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The new Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a significant responsibility on schools and colleges and leaders need to ensure they have plans in place to help carry out their duty, says Anna Cole.

Preventative measures

Few members will have missed the fact that from July, the new Act introduced the Prevent duty on schools and colleges ‘to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism’.

In addition, Ofsted will monitor compliance with the new duty. Ofsted has made clear that a school or college with students with extremist ideas can have outstanding practice because it is addressing the issues, working with and talking to its young people, while a school or college that believes it has no problems and is doing nothing can fail in its Prevent duty. 

The context for the government decision to raise the threat from international terrorism to ‘severe’ in 2014 and to introduce this new duty is unfortunately too familiar. Approximately 700 to 800 UK citizens, over 60 of whom are women and girls and many of whom are children, have so far left the UK to travel to Syria or Iraq. Nearly half of the 4,000+ referrals to Channel, the government’s counter-radicalisation scheme, have been young people aged under 18. The UK security services have prevented seven terrorist attacks so far this year and recent events in Paris tragically demonstrate the threat of attacks across Europe remains high.

Alongside the global phenomenon of a rising threat of Islamist extremism is a rise in far-right extremism. A study of 6,000 UK school pupils, by Show Racism the Red Card between 2012-14, found large numbers of pupils felt negative and hostile towards Muslims and these views were fuelled by distorted understanding of the number of immigrants and Muslims in the UK and ignorance of the Islamic faith. These are perceptions that are likely to have become further entrenched. Many leaders I have spoken to report a rise in casual racism and Islamophobia in their schools, others say their Muslim students, growing up in the shadow of 9/11, want to be accepted as good British citizens but feel that the way they and their community is portrayed makes them feel less British which erodes their sense of belonging.

It is interesting to note that both Islamist extremism and far-right extremism rely on the same ‘them and us’ mentality.

Prevent is one strand of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It represents the “pre-criminal space” offering early intervention for those identified as vulnerable to extremism and radicalisation before behaviour escalates into criminal activity. It does not criminalise young people.

The Prevent guidance outlines that schools and colleges must carry out a risk assessment shared with local partners, have robust safeguarding policies and procedures and, keep students safe online. It makes clear that training for staff is essential so that staff understand how and when to refer but also acquire knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge extremist ideas.

Free training is available to all schools and colleges in the form of a two-hour Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), though the government accepts that in some parts of the country local authority providers are struggling to meet demand. Email WRAP@ for details of providers near you.


Schools and colleges can create resilience to radicalisation and extremism amongst their pupils by becoming places where difficult and controversial issues are discussed, by having a broad and balanced curriculum, teaching fundamental values, observing equalities and creating a strong, well understood ethos that gives all young people a sense of belonging. These are principles already reflected in good teaching and leadership across the country, the need for them to be centre stage has never been greater.

Critical-thinking skills must be at the heart of teaching so children and young people become questioning, discerning, reflective, independent learners who understand how to manage risk, resist pressure, make safer choices and seek help when they need it.

‘British values’ is arguably an unhelpful label but the values themselves (democracy, liberty, the rule of law and respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs) are sound and shared across the world. The government defines extremism as the vocal or active opposition to these values. It is incumbent on schools and colleges to embed these values and to promote open discussion among staff, leaders and students. Ofsted has made clear that good practice is where schools and colleges look for opportunities for young people to have discussions about controversial issues.

The education system cannot solve these problems alone, but it has an important role to play as part of a society-wide effort. ASCL members are leading the way in safeguarding children and young people and engaging with them so that they become more resilient to being drawn into hate-filled extremist ideologies of whatever origin.

Anna Cole is ASCL Parliamentary Specialist

Professional development on safeguarding:

ASCL has been running seminars on safeguarding children and young people from extremism and radicalisation and subject to need, we may put on more in the New Year. If you would like to attend these seminars, or if you would like our consultants to come and train you in your school/s, please register your interest by emailing

Find out more:

In addition, Anna will be leading sessions on safeguarding at these two ASCL PD events:

Ofsted’s Guidance on Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare

Wednesday 13 Jan 2016, London

Creating a Climate for Learning: A conference for pastoral leaders

Tuesday 19 January, Birmingham