Schools Week is reporting that the number of referrals made by the education sector to the government’s anti-radicalisation scheme, Channel, has dramatically increased from 20 in 2012/13 to 424 last year.
However, experts are warning that an ‘uncomprehensive’ roll-out of training means teachers lack an understanding of when pupils should be referred. Since July, teaching staff have been legally bound to ‘take steps to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.
Zafar Ali, chairman of governors at IQRA Slough Islamic Primary School, in Berkshire, said: “There is little training given to teachers about what forms of radicalisation there are, and what the signs are. So you are getting this knee-jerk reaction because schools are so scared that if they don’t make a referral, they will be found wanting.”
Ali is responsible for providing radicalisation safeguarding training in schools. He said: “The lack of knowledge and understanding of radicalisation [in schools] is . . . stifling freedom of speech to dangerous levels now.”
The Channel programme was activated in 2012, in a bid to provide early support for people identified as being vulnerable to radicalisation. Once referred, referrals are assessed by a board of Channel officers who decide if specialist intervention support, such as de-radicalisation sessions are necessary.