SACC Calls for Moratorium on Counter-Terrorism Training in Scottish Schools

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
17 July 2016

SACC is calling for a moratorium on the Scottish roll-out of controversial counter-terrorism training for teachers following a damning report on the programme by the charity Rights Watch UK.

Rights Watch UK last week recommended that: "the Prevent strategy and Channel programme insofar as they apply to schools must be repealed and abandoned." The recommendation was one of the conclusions of the new Rights Watch UK report on "Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools."

The report draws on case studies of the operation of the Prevent strategy in England and Wales, where the current implementation of Prevent has a longer history than in Scotland. It also looks at the human rights framework applicable to Prevent.

The Prevent strategy has not yet been fully implemented in Scottish schools. It was launched by Education Scotland at a conference held in Glasgow in February. Some Scottish teachers - especially those in promoted positions - have already received training in the strategy. The rest of Scotland's teachers are expected to be trained at the end of the summer break.

The training tells teachers how to spot students who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and could go on to become terrorists or supporters of terrorism. Teachers are trained to report students who they are concerned about to police under the "Prevent Professional Concerns" (PPC) programme - the Scottish equivalent of "Channel".

Reports to the police under PPC do not normally involve any suspicion of criminal conduct or intent. For students to be reported, it is enough for them to fall within the government's profile of vulnerability to radicalisation by changing their day to day behaviour and/or showing an interest in political issues linked in the government's view to terrorism.

SACC and other human rights groups believe that the Prevent strategy is discriminatory, undermines the relationship between educators and students, and is more likely to foster terrorism than to prevent it.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) - the main Scottish teaching union - is opposed to Prevent.   

The Prevent strategy is a UK-wide strategy said to be intended to stop people turning to terrorism. But Rights Watch UK says it is "not fit for purpose" and is "leaving a generation of young Britons fearful of exercizing their rights to freedom of expression and belief and risks being counter-productive by driving children to discuss issues related to terrorism, religion and identity outside the classroom and online where simplistic narratives are promoted and go unchallenged."

Rights Watch UK says that the Prevent strategy, as implemented in educational institutions, has implications for the right to freedom of expression; the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; the right to education; the right to privacy; the right to enjoy other rights free from discrimination on grounds such as religion, or political or other opinion; and the right, for children, to have their best interests as the primary consideration where any public body takes any action concerning them.

Rights Watch UK was set up in 2014 and works to ensure "that the measures taken by the UK Government in pursuit of national security are compliant with human rights and international law." Its board members include Dr Mary O'Rawe, barrister and Senior Law Lecturer at the University of Ulster; Joanne Mariner, a Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International; and Geraldine Scullion, a former Legal Director of the European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest and a former Legal Director of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

The Rights Watch UK report adds weight to the many voices that have already been raised against the Prevent strategy.

As a counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent is reserved to Westminster. But its implementation in Scotland involves functions devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Statutory guidance on the Prevent duty under the UK's Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 was issued jointly by the UK and Scottish Governments.

It is within the power of Education Scotland and the Scottish Government to instigate a moratorium on Prevent training in Scottish schools in the light of the Rights Watch UK findings. SACC calls on them to do so immediately. We also call on the Scottish Government to instigate an immediate moratorium on Prevent training in Higher and Further Education institutions. Many of the concerns raised in the Rights Watch report apply to these institutions too.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC said:

"The report from Rights Watch UK confirms and amplifies our own concerns over Prevent. The problem is particularly acute in schools. Prevent's impact on Scottish schools has so far been limited, but Education Scotland is planning to step Prevent up massively in the next academic year. If this goes ahead, the damage to Scotland's young people and its education system will be very hard to repair. Education Scotland needs to learn from the mistakes made in England and think again. There must be an immediate moratorium on all training for school staff in connection with Prevent."

[ENDS]

 

Notes For Editors

  1.  SACC campaigns against Britain's anti-terrorism laws and on a variety of other human rights issues. SACC has argued for many years that Prevent should be scrapped and that people should not cooperate with it.
  2. The Rights Watch UK report "Preventing Education? Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools" is here
  3. SACC's policy on Prevent is at www.sacc.org.uk/press/2015/resisting-prevent-sacc-statement
  4. SACC's advice to people targeted by Prevent is at: www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2016/know-your-rights-under-prevent
  5. No official figures are available for the number of people who have been referred to the PPC programme. The Scottish authorities are more secretive about PPC than the English authorities are about the Channel programme (the equivalent to PPC in England and Wales). However, Frank Deas, a senior Glasgow City Council officer, told a Glasgow seminar in March that the number of PPC referrals to date, across the whole of Scotland, was "just into double figures" - www.sacc.org.uk/news/2016/muslim-council-scotland-looks-counter-extremism-policy The number of people referred to Channel is much larger and includes young children. The low Scottish figure given in March is unsurprising, since up to that date Prevent had not been widely applied in Scotland.