6 key pieces of advice from lawyers for schools and colleges to comply with Prevent Duty

9th December 2015

From 1 July 2015, all schools and FE colleges in England, Wales and Scotland have a statutory duty, through the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, to prevent people being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas. This is known as the Prevent Duty.

Training for frontline staff on the Prevent Duty is a requirement of the statutory guidance, so it is essential that all universities, colleges and schools demonstrate their compliance with the legislation.

This training will help staff identify when students are vulnerable or at risk to being drawn into terrorism and can respond using the appropriate processes.

At Marshall’s, we believe the education sector needs support to comply with the Prevent Duty so we spoke to our partners, law firm Shakespeare Martineau, on what they felt to be the key advice for colleges and schools looking to comply with Prevent Duty.

This advice is reflected in our Prevent Duty courses, aimed at universities, colleges and schools. Take a look at the  Prevent Training: Inclusive, Cohesive & Safe Campuses and Colleges course details for more information and to get a free trial of the course.

1. Set the context in Equality & Diversity

Situating the Prevent Duty in the context of Equality & Diversity, inclusivity, freedom of expression and freedom of speech is very useful. It emphasises the value of open and free debate in an educational community, which can help in constructively challenging extremism, rather than promoting covert surveillance and censorship.

2. Aim for a positive outcome

Students should be allowed to voice their opinions without fear of opprobrium and that that freedom in turn affords staff a valuable opportunity to challenge any extremist views.

Creating a safe and supportive environment which promotes open discussion will afford students an opportunity to re-evaluate and ultimately reject actual or potentially extremist views.

3. Explain the Legal Framework

Referring to shared values and cohesion to explain the Prevent Duty can be a very useful introduction. It would also be useful to including a short explanation early in the training explaining the legal framework, in particular the Public Sector Equality Duty, Prevent Duty and freedom of expression / freedom of speech this will make the rest of the course easier to understand.

4. Explain key concepts

The Prevent guidance states that frontline staff should be made aware of what the concepts of radicalisation and extremism are and the potential links with terrorism. Presenting clear definitions of these concepts will make your Prevent Duty training more effective.

5. Get familiar with the statutory guidance for colleges

Educational establishments owe a duty of care to their students to take reasonable steps to prevent harm which can occur in relation the establishment’ s own activities. In specific circumstances, Schools and FE colleges also have statutory duties regarding harm which is outside of their direct control to seek appropriate help and support, so that they can help to prevent that harm occurring.

Schools and FE colleges have a duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of their students who are under 18 and to whom they provide education and training .? This includes being able to identify concerns early and in particular, the signs of abuse, harm or radicalisation, and to seek appropriate help in accordance with colleges safeguarding policies.

6. Understand Freedom of Speech

The European Convention of Human Rights includes the right not only to hold opinions but also to impart and receive information and ideas, without interference. Therefore this right should be upheld.

There are exceptions in limited circumstances. This could be to protect the rights of others e.g. to protect vulnerable individuals from harm or to prevent disorder or crime e.g. where the expression of opinion or imparting information is a call to violence or racial hatred.

The duty with regard to freedom of speech within the law is similar. In addition it requires colleges to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the use of any of their premises is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with (a) the beliefs or views of that individual or of any member of that body; or (b) the policy or objectives of that body.

Public bodies such as FE Colleges must respect the right of its staff and students to freedom of expression, which includes the right to express opinions and to receive information, without interference from colleges. It is regarded as a very important right in a democracy.? Further, FE colleges have a specific statutory duty to take reasonable steps to secure freedom of speech within the law for staff, students and visiting speakers.

These rights are not absolute and can be curtailed, for example where a person’s views are likely to create disorder or amount to a crime e.g. incitement to violence or racial hatred. Any curtailment must be proportionate.

Marshall’s Prevent Duty training course, aimed at universities, colleges and schools, enables staff to identify when students could be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and can respond appropriately by means of challenge and education or when necessary by seeking further advice and support.

Take a look at the ‘Prevent Training: Inclusive, Cohesive & Safe Campuses and Colleges’ course details for more information and to get a free trial of the course.

 

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