The National Union of Teachers annual conference has passed a motion calling for the government’s prevent duty to be withdrawn and replaced with new guidance for schools
In a passionate speech at the end of the debate, executive member Alex Kenny called on the press to “read the words on the page” and not use the motion and debate to paint the union and its members as “soft on extremism”.
Here is the exact wording of the substantive motion as it was amended and approved on the conference floor. We hope it speaks for itself.
Conference instructs the executive to:
a) Call on the government to withdraw the prevent strategy in regard to schools and colleges and to involve the profession in developing alternative strategies to safeguard children and identify risks posed to young people
b) Campaign for recognition of the principle that schools and colleges should ensure a safe space for children and young people to explore their relationship with the world around them
c) Draw up guidelines for schools and colleges to address values, community cohesion and the advance of human rights through education
d) Work alongside other teacher unions, the TUC, UCU, NUS, civil liberties groups and others
e) Issue further advice to members about prevent and to support members and associations who raise concerns about the implementation or training where they believe this has:
1. Breached equality rights and principles
2. Encouraged the racial profiling of students
3. Encouraged the targeting or victimisation of students for reason of faith, culture or legitimate political expression
f) Encourage and support members and workplace representatives to monitor how prevent is being implemented in their school/college and to take collective steps to challenge and improve policies and reporting/curriculum practices where necessary
g) Work with classroom teachers to develop resources for teachers on teaching about difficult or controversial issues and consider providing CPD on this
h) Continue to inform members about the union’s position on prevent through union publications and via the website
i) Call on the government to conduct urgently an independent review of the Prevent Strategy in line with the comments from David Anderson and to insist that teacher unions should play a full part in that review
j) Survey all members to establish their awareness of the prevent agenda and its implementation in schools. Use the survey results to further educate members and inform local authorities
1) There exist long established and robust safeguarding procedures in schools to identify and protect vulnerable children or children at risk from harm
2) The counter terrorism and security act places a statutory duty on schools, colleges and local authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being “drawn into terrorism”
3) Prevent training is being carried out in schools and colleges by a range of organisations including local police authorities as well as an unregulated range of non-governmental organisations and private training companies and so as a consequence this training has been very varied in content and practice
4) There have been a number of high profile cases where young people have been wrongly referred to the police for comments made during class discussion.
5) This strategy is being implemented against a background of increased attacks on the Muslim community and risks being used to target young Muslim people
6) The conclusion by David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, that, “If the wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile, and playing into the hands of those who, by peddling a grievance agenda, seek to drive people further towards extremism and terrorism”
7) The extension of the inspection framework has given Ofsted power to make judgements about whether the curriculum actively promotes the “fundamental British values” of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
8) Comments by the government’s independent adviser on terror legislation, David Anderson QC, that the prevent strategy has become a “significant source of grievance among British Muslims, encouraging mistrust to spread and to fester.” In addition, conference welcomes his recommendation that the prevent strategy should be the subject of an independent review.
1) The statutory duty placed on schools, colleges and local authorities sits alongside a responsibility to ensure a safe space for children and young people to explore their relationship with the world around them
2) A key role of teachers and schools is to develop critical thinking skills in children and young people and that teachers should feel able to embrace opportunities to promote such developments within the classroom situation
3) Discussion in schools should take place in a spirit of openness and trust, with young people feeling safe in expressing challenge to ideas
4) There is evidence that some of the expectations driven by the Prevent agenda and Ministerial speeches are undermining the confidence of teachers and students to explore and discuss global issues
5) The recommendation in the Bullock Report (1976), “No child should be expected to cast off the language and culture of home as he (or she) crosses the school threshold” is as true today as it was in 1976
6) No student or pupil should fear that the expression of opinion or exploration of ideas within the boundaries of the school’s equality and diversity policy and codes on harassment or abuse, will incur suspicion, reporting or sanction
7) The meaning of “fundamental British values” is unclear and contestable and should be replaced with the principles of international human rights, and the values and goals enshrined in the UN convention on the rights of the child
8) There is a danger that implementation of Prevent could worsen relationships between teachers and learners, close down space for open discussion in a safe and secure environment and smother the legitimate expression of political opinion.