Prevent ‘is another safeguarding duty’

Schools should see their new legal duty to prevent students being drawn into terrorism as an extension of their existing safeguarding responsibilities, says a head teachers’ leader.

The new Prevent duty was introduced for schools and other public bodies from 1 July as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that schools should “see their duties on radicalisation as another safeguarding duty”, adding: “Schools are used to keeping their students safe from harm and this is a version of that.

“This means looking out for students rather than conducting surveillance on them. It means understanding the risk and acting proportionately. And it does mean reporting serious concerns so that any danger can be prevented before it materialises.”

The government published new advice on the Prevent duty and social media guidance on 1 July, to clarify what the duty means in practice for schools and childcare providers and assist them in complying with their new legal responsibilities, following on from statutory guidance on the duty for all public bodies issued in March.

The social media guidance makes clear that teachers need to be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups and be vigilant for signs of radicalisation.

While the government guidance says the Prevent duty is “entirely consistent with schools’ and childcare providers’ existing responsibilities and should not be burdensome”, schools and their governing bodies may find it helpful to seek clarification on their responsibilities and interpreting and implementing the policy, as well as its interaction with other obligations, for example under the Data Protection Act. For more information on how Palmers can help, please contact BJ Chong.