Prevent duty - as important as ever

Sadly the Prevent Duty’s relevance has become even more obvious since the horrific events recently in Manchester and London, writes Selina Stewart, Prevent Lead Associate at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).

Over the last year we have seen terrorism driven by right wing extremism as well as by a corruption of the Islamic faith. Whichever ideology is being promoted we all need to safeguard learners from groomers exploiting vulnerable people for extremism.

FE and training providers are well aware of the importance of the Prevent Duty. Colleges, Independent Learning Providers and adult learning providers have continued to work to prevent learners being exploited by all kinds of extremists and to deal with the concerns which are raised by fellow students, apprentices, employers or staff.


Ofsted and the Prevent Duty

Providers are very well aware of the increased Ofsted focus on the Prevent Duty and British values. Significant progress has been made in the sector since the publication of the Ofsted report: How well are FE and skills providers implementing the ‘Prevent’ Duty? (July 2016).

Additional responsibilities have also been added with the new Safeguarding guidance published in September 2016 with the expectation that providers will monitor provider internet use, not just to consider having firewalls, as the Prevent duty guidance states.

It is now normal practice for Ofsted inspectors to ask apprentices in the workplace and students in colleges what they know about the Prevent Duty, where they have covered British values in the curriculum and if they know how to keep themselves safe from radicalisation and extremism. This means that providers need to: be very explicit about the Prevent Duty; make sure that learners know that they are studying British values in the curriculum; and train learners in keeping themselves safe, particularly online.

A key requirement of the statutory Prevent Duty and an Ofsted expectation is that providers should support learners in having discussions and ensure that these are carried out in a respectful and non-abusive way. If we don’t allow debate about controversial issues, these conversations will still take place but often in a bubble of like-minded people where views, ideas and lies are not tested and challenged. These may then lead to narrow or extreme interpretations and make learners vulnerable to extremist groomers.


Good practice

As I travel around the country and talk to providers it is clear that many are developing very good practice. This includes both making sure learners are aware of the dangers presented by extremist groomers and by promoting and exemplifying British values. Increasing numbers of providers also gives learners the opportunity to discuss controversial issues. We need to build on all of this good practice.

The Prevent Duty was on the agenda for providers even before the Manchester and London atrocities or the murder of Jo Cox last year, but events like these do inevitably remind us all that this is a real concern and that engaging with the Prevent Duty is not just about compliance; it is about keeping our learners and society safe.