More than 1,000 children have been referred for deradicalisation in a year as teachers embrace their duty to stop pupils becoming terrorists.
Hundreds of patients and students were also reported to the authorities for being vulnerable to extremism. However, teaching unions have expressed concerns, saying that some children were being reported needlessly.
The Counter Terrorism and Security Act imposes a requirement for ‘specific authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism’. Local authorities, education, the health sector, prisons and the police must all comply.
In schools 1,041 children were referred last year to Channel, the deradicalisation programme; in 2012, the year it was extended nationally, only nine children were referred, In further education colleges there were 180 referrals, compared wit h five in 2012. Higher education institutions such as universities reported 76 students. The health service had 228 referrals last year.
Local authorities reported 284 vulnerable people. Referrals from councils are made by departments including housing, social care, children’s safeguarding, adults’ safeguarding, youth offending teams and youth workers.
Based on 190-day school year, the latest figures, covering England and Wales, were released by the National Police Chiefs Council under the Freedom of Information Act. About half of those referred to Channel were assessed as needing no intervention.
Channel is part of the government’s Prevent strategy, which seeks to stop people becoming terrorists. A person’s potentially extremist beliefs are challenged through sessions that seek to show them that their way of thinking is delusional. Often it involves former extremists sharing their experiences. Individuals may withdraw but most do not. Parents can refuse to give consent.
Education unions have spoken out against the statutory duty to report but these figures suggest a positive engagement with the anti-radicalisation drive.
Kevin Courtney, of the National Union of Teachers, said that the number of referrals dismissed by Channel suggested a tendency to over-refer.
Ata conference this month, Malia Bouattia, president of the National Union of Students, said: “Prevent thrives off confusion and paranoia.”
A co-ordinator of Prevent said that it was not about arresting people and that those referred were engaging with the programme.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Like safeguarding mechanisms for other risks such as child sexual exploitation, vulnerable children deserve to have the support they need. Protecting those who are vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us”.