In a bid to tackle the phenomenon of radicalisation, the government has passed the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 which affects every school in the country. In a matter of weeks, every school has been asked to provide clear safeguarding measures to address radicalisation: this is called the PREVENT action which comes with clear guidance for school and school staff.
The guidance is clear that:
- Extremism and radicalisation are safeguarding concerns and should be dealt with using the school’s existing safeguarding procedures.
- Schools must ensure that children understand the ‘diverse…religious and ethnic identities in the UK’
- The Prevent duty does not require teachers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life
There are 5 themes within the Prevent duty:
- Risk assessment: There is no single way to identify a young person who is at risk. Small changes in behaviour might indicate there are concerns about their wellbeing so members of staff MUST refer anything to the Designated Lead for Safeguarding who can then carry out a risk assessment
- Working in partnership: every school should work in partnership with the Police. There is a telephone helpline for extremism 020 7340 7264. If you a member of staff is concerned that a child’s life is in immediate danger, or that they may be planning to travel to Syria / Iraq dial 999 or call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321
- Staff training: whole staff training is to be carried out in every school on this issue.
- IT policies: Staff should develop an awareness of online risks and how extremists use social media to engage with young people. Every teacher needs to be aware of the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups
- Building resilience to radicalisation: In all lessons, teaching, support teaching and non-teaching staff should seek to offer a ‘safe environment’ to explore sensitive or controversial topics
Use of Social Media by ISIS/ISIL and similar groups
As with other online harms, every member of staff needs to be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups. Keeping children safe from risks posed by terrorist exploitation of social media should be approached in the same way as safeguarding children from any other online abuse. In the same way that staff are vigilant about signs of possible physical or emotional abuse in any of their pupils, if you have a concern for the safety of a specific young person at risk of radicalisation, you should follow the school safeguarding procedures and report your concern to Elga Stuck (Designated Lead.
ISIL media presents ISIL as the powerful creators of a new state.. When ISIL’s official media groups release material online the group encourages supporters on social media to share the material – this is what gives ISIL its large reach, particularly to young people.
- ISIL celebrates and promotes an image of success online in order to attract young people – it tells them that ISIL are winning side and offer an exciting life.
- ISIL portray their ‘Caliphate’ as an ideal, utopian state where Muslims will find status and belonging.
- ISIL insists that it is the personal duty of Sunni Muslims to support them and travel to the ‘Caliphate’.
- ISIL portrays itself as the only group able to defend Sunnis from the Assad regime, the Iraqi army or the threat of the West.
- Facebook: ISIL supporters use this to share content, such as news stories and YouTube videos, among their peer groups.
- Twitter: There are a large number of pro-ISIL accounts sharing ISIL propaganda.
- You Tube: This is used to host videos, both of official ISIL output and videos created by users themselves. Users post YouTube links in Twitter and Facebook.
- Ask FM: FM People considering travel to Syria or Iraq use Ask.fm to ask British jihadis and female ISIL supporters about travel, living standards, recruitment, fighting and broader ideology. The answers given by ISIL supporters are encouraging, saying all their difficulties will be solved if they travel to the region.
- Instagram: This is used by fighters and ISIL supporters to share the photosets frequently produced by various ISIL media organisations. ISIL supporters also use Instagram to share pictures of their life in Syria, often showing landscapes and images suggesting they are living a full and happy life.
- Tumblr: This is exploited by fighters to promote longer, theological arguments for travel. Tumblr is popular with female ISIL supporters, who have written blogs addressing the concerns girls have about travelling to the region, such as leaving their families behind and living standards in Syria.
PM: On social media, ISIL supporters frequently encourage others to message them on closed peer-to-peer networks when asked for sensitive information, such as on how to travel to the region, what to pack and who to contact when they arrive. Popular private messaging apps include WhatsApp, Kik, SureSpot and Viber.
How can school librarians support the school agenda in this?
Our recommended resources include:
Counter-Extremism (narratives and conversations), an open-access video database put together by the London Grid for Learning
Inspire, a counter-extremism and women’ rights organisation lead by Sara Khan