Low number of Scots pupils referred to anti-terror Prevent

Prevent strategy is meant to curb pupils being vulnerable to radicalisation.  PICTURE: David Cheskin
Prevent strategy is meant to curb pupils being vulnerable to radicalisation. PICTURE: David Cheskin
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One in eight referrals to the UK government’s anti-terrorism strategy Prevent in Scotland have been made by schools, while one child under nine was referred for fear of radicalisation, new figures reveal.

A total of 131 referrals have been made over the last two years north of the border - including 16 from schools under Prevent, part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which imposes a legal duty on all public sector employees such as teachers, university lecturers and health workers to report people they believe could be involved in, or vulnerable to, terrorist activities.

Scotland’s universities and colleges have reported four cases.

Approximately half of the 131 people referred were aged under 19 while 18 per cent were under 14.

A total of 85 cases were referred for “ideology” while one person was reported to Prevent Professional Concerns which handles the most serious and “acute” cases, according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland.

However, figures show schools in England referred 1,319 cases to Prevent.

Police Scotland Prevent lead Detective chief inspector Martin Black, said: “There have been many good stories about those individuals who we have stopped (from) travelling to Syria and putting themselves at risk.

“There have been cases where we have spoken to young people who wish to go out to Syria, not just to fight for (jihadist groups) Isis/Isil, but also those who want to fight on the other side against Isis.”

However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said his union was opposed to the strategy for threatening trust between teachers and pupils, increasing the risk of radicalisation and said Scotland’s low referral rate was down to a “balanced approach”.

“Teenagers have got lots of questions and if they are not going to be able to discuss these questions in a supportive environment at school for fear of being reported, that closes down space for discussion - and closing down that space means there’s a greater danger of radicalism.

“Prevent is not opposed (by the EIS ) because of its ambition - it’s opposed because of its cack-handed approach to a sensitive area.

“Scottish councils have, by and large, not bought into the anti-Islam narrative that pervades Prevent in England.”