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Schools must take extremism as seriously as drug and alcohol abuse, warns Education Minister

Schools must take extremism as seriously as drug and alcohol abuse, warns Education Minister

🕔17.Jun 2014

Protecting children from being influenced by extremist and violent views should be as much a priority for schools as safeguarding young people from drugs, gang violence or alcohol abuse, the Education Minister has stated.

Edward Timpson, answering questions from MPs about the Trojan Horse allegations of hardline Muslim infiltration of classrooms in Birmingham, said the Government’s Prevent strategy to identify and eradicate extremism had to be a priority for all schools.

Mr Timpson said: “Schools can help protect children from extremist and violent views in the same ways that they help to safeguard children from drugs, gang violence or alcohol abuse.

“Schools’ work on Prevent needs to be seen in this context. It is for local authorities to determine how best to support schools in their areas in the light of local circumstances.

“Preventing extremism in all schools is a priority for the Government. In 2010 the Department for Education set up the first preventing extremism unit in Whitehall outside the Home Office.

“Ofsted now trains inspectors to understand and report on extremism. The Department has published a range of guidance to support schools in raising awareness of the risks from extremism.”

Mr Timpson confirmed that the Department for Education first became aware of claims about alleged Islamisation of Birmingham schools in December 2013 when it received a copy of one of the Trojan Horse letters.

He told MPs that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has asked the DfE Permanent Secretary to investigate how the Department for Education dealt with warnings since the formation of the coalition Government in 2010 and before.

The Government set up a £5.7 million Prevent strategy fund in 2011, passing responsibility on to councils to address issues of extremism in schools.

Mr Timpson added: “A number of local Prevent projects, funded by Home Office, engage schools and supplementary schools and train teachers in priority areas. The Department for Education and Home Office are working together to secure the best practical outcome from this funding.

“Since receiving a copy of the Trojan Horse letter, the Department for Education has been working closely with agencies such as Birmingham City Council, the police and Ofsted. Based on the Department’s evidence-gathering, the Secretary of State commissioned inspections by Ofsted and appointed Peter Clarke as Education Commissioner.”

Mr Clarke, who will issue his Trojan Horse findings next month, is expected to look in closer detail at the relationships between school governors and the way schools in Birmingham have addressed the Prevent strategy.

Ofsted’s report into 21 Birmingham schools said to be at the centre of the Trojan Horse affair was published last week and raised doubts about the city council’s commitment to making sure the Prevent strategy was being implemented in schools.

The report by Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, based on interviews with teachers and governors, warned: “A number of school leaders said that they had not been supported by the local authority in their efforts to keep pupils safe from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism.

“Although the local authority has received public funding to promote the Home Office’s Prevent strategy, Her Majesty’s Inspectors found that support for some schools in their efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of extremism has been very limited.

“It is my belief that the active promotion of a narrow set of values and beliefs in some of the schools is making children vulnerable to segregation and emotional dislocation from wider society.”

The Home Office’s Prevent strategy document, drawn up three years ago, notes the potential for schools to be used as recruitment grounds by extremists, although it also states there is no evidence of a systematic attempt to recruit or radicalise people in full time education.


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