An open discussion about counter-radicalisation measures in schools should be welcomed

January 28, 2016 — Press release

Written by IRR News Team

A paper[1], Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention, published today by the Institute of Race Relations supports the NUT’s call[2] for a more rational debate on the Prevent duty in schools.

In order to encourage an informed and rational debate on the new duty placed on schools to prevent children being drawn in to terrorism,[3] the IRR has tested the duty against key articles in the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention (COROC).

Our analysis is based on around fifteen cases of concern already reported in the media or to professional bodies. These cases raise issues under COROC, Articles 2, 8, 30 (non-discrimination), Articles 3, 19 (best interests of the child, protection of welfare, protection from physical or mental violence), Articles 13-15 (freedom of thought, expression and association), Article 29 (right to education), Articles 5, 18 (parental and community rights).

Schools have a responsibility to keep children safe. The IRR shares the anxieties of parents, schools and all those concerned with children’s welfare when faced with reports of British schoolchildren and their families leaving Britain to join Isis in Syria. But this cannot allow us to sideline other concerns voiced by professionals working with young people, that the new Prevent duty imposed on schools has:

  • created fear in children and parents
  • stifled free expression
  • harmed children’s healthy development
  • fuelled discrimination against Muslim children and their communities.

In the climate of heightened media interest following the terrorist attacks in Paris, teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to voice reservations. Self-censorship is in no one’s interests.

IRR Director Liz Fekete commented: ‘Discussion on the effectiveness of the Prevent duty, of its proportionality and its unintended consequences, should be welcomed by all those concerned about security, and concerned about children.’

IRR Vice-Chair, Frances Webber, a prominent retired human rights lawyer and author of the paper, said: ‘It is vitally important that governments, when trying to protect children in one area, do not create systems that undermine their rights in another. This can happen when measures are put into place without careful thought … This analysis shows that the government has not sufficiently considered the potential lasting damage to children’s welfare and development that this new duty may have.’

Notes to Editors

[1] Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention (pdf file, 539kb), an analysis by the Institute of Race Relations, has been circulated to the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, the Children’s Commissioners for England, Scotland and Wales and the Department for Education.

[2] NUT: ‘Our Prevent concerns are raised to ensure the best possible system to protect children’.

[3] The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTS) section 26 for the first time imposed on specified authorities including local authorities, schools, nurseries and social services departments a duty to ‘have due regard in the exercise of their functions to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Comments

January 29, 2016
Graham Riches:

The concerns of the professionals referred to above possibly account for certain persons being able to further disadvantage my family, including my wife and our two sons born in Wales but repeatedly attacked at now three schools of the elder by his thirteenth birthday, after being exposed to serious harassment and even eight criminal damage with intent to endanger human life attacks on our rural home and car since 2002.
I have tried repeatedly to convey the need for appropriate action to the Equalities Officer of Powys County Council, since early in 2014 on the advice of Estyn following my submission about “bullying” at Primary school level during an Inspection of the school then attended by both boys since January 2010, after attacks/threats against my elder son at the previous “designated” school since autumn 2007 but, as recently as last week, such person could not be identified although the name of one known official met previously still appears in “Equalities” context seemingly in “LinkedIn” details noted as recently as yesterday but evidently not known by “Customer Services” as recently as last week.
My concerns are that, particularly in times of reduced resources available to local authorities, there may be excessive efforts made by those charged with duty to identify (including by use of teaching staff at schools if in their “job descriptions” and potentially advantageous to their careers) potentially “radical” persons, even when just “different” for the most basic reason such as different ethnic “mixed” background/religion such as Roman Catholic/simply not in a “network” normally associated with fellow professionals – ALL reasons noted, by June 2009, by Children’s Services AFTER my complaints about their conduct towards my family involving repeatedly proven to be maliciously invented submissions from the community in which we have resided since 2002, including with three police installed CCTV cameras for six months to protect our home before installation of our own system by early 2005.
When resources are finite it is surely prudent to make people who deliberately waste the time of those charged with all security (including child welfare) issues regret wasting such resources. Furthermore, people motivated by malice could be causing their victims to become more disenchanted with their lifestyles, including education opportunities particularly if attacked/harassed at schools by pupils who are children of those associated with Boards Of Governors/PTA if there are no remedial actions known to have been taken against the “better connected” culprits.
My BSc qualified wife, with over a decade of professional experience in a Regional Trial Court overseas and British since May 2005 after arriving in Wales by December 2001, has little hope of our sons ever being given normal lifestyle chances in Wales – a view even I share having seen a city like Leicester prosper as I grew up there mainly before going to Auckland in New Zealand where I really noted racism by 1974. However, trying to turn such disadvantages into opportunities, I hope my sons will use their experiences to advantage, including in due course in possibly “Equalities” related professional roles! Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (since 1979 but retired and involved in “research” only from 2009)

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