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Bid to halt pupil radicalisation

Published 06/05/2015

Schools are among authorities required under new laws to have
Schools are among authorities required under new laws to have "due regard" to preventing people being drawn into terrorism

Head teachers will be given advice on how to prevent pupils being drawn into extremism at a series of special seminars.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it organised the events in response to "widespread concern over the impact of extremist propaganda on young people" and new counter-terrorism legislation.

Schools and colleges are among authorities required under new laws to have "due regard" to preventing people being drawn into terrorism.

The announcement of the ASCL seminars comes after the alleged Trojan Horse plot by hardline Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham. There were claims this weekend that schools are still facing intimidation after the scandal.

Concerns that schoolchildren could be radicalised were highlighted in February when it emerged that three teenage pupils from Bethnal Green Academy in east London were feared to have flown to Syria to join Islamic State.

ASCL deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said the seminars will cover all forms of extremism, including far-right ideologies and Islamophobia, as well as the threat of Islamic radicalisation.

Part of the sessions will help school leaders understand how "propaganda" on social media and the internet "grooms" young people into extremist ideologies, the ASCL said.

Attendees will be given help understanding the duties placed on them and practical help and advice in safeguarding children in an environment which "celebrates equality and diversity".

Birmingham-based head Kamal Hanif will be one of the seminar leaders.

He said: "This is about having a greater understanding around the issues of radicalisation and extremism, how to identify situations and how to deal with them in an appropriate manner, without overreacting and being alarmist.

"Young people spend a lot of their time on the web and social media and they can easily get drawn into extremist ideas without access to a counter-narrative.

"These seminars will help schools and, in turn, parents, who often have no idea that their children are accessing this sort of information, to pick up the signs and use the appropriate channels in dealing with these concerns.

"They will help to equip heads with the counter-narratives to some of the false claims put out by extremists."

Counter-extremism campaigner Sara Khan and ASCL parliamentary specialist Anna Cole will join Mr Hanif leading the seminars.

Ms Khan said: "It is important for schools to understand the current threat of extremism and how extremists prey on children both online and offline.

"The seminars will clarify and help guide schools how they can safeguard children from extremists who seek to exploit them."

Ms Cole sad: "These seminars are about safeguarding young people, not criminalising them, so that school leaders are able to intervene in the right way at an early stage."

ASCL will hold seven seminars in June and July in Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, London, Manchester, Leeds and Durham.

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