Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)
Sunday 14 August 2016
Teachers in Glasgow schools received training last week in the controversial Prevent strategy, which encourages teachers to inform on students in the name of preventing radicalisation.
SACC believes that Prevent threatens community relations, undermines trust between students and teachers, risks triggering prejudice and hate crime, and is far more likely to drive people towards terrorism than away from it. We are dismayed that this training has been delivered in the face of strong opposition from human rights organisations and trade unions.
Prevent is a snitchers' charter that turns educators into informants.
In a report published in July, the charity Rights Watch UK said:
"The chilling effect of Prevent on inquiry and discussion is unacceptable anywhere, but particularly in the educational setting where, as a number of articulate students and concerned teachers have noted, driving vulnerable children to discuss issues relating to terrorism, religion, and identity outside the classroom and online counterproductively risks the very marginalization and radicalization the Prevent strategy was developed to stop. Further, the revelation that information regarding children is being collected, stored, and accessed without any apparent statutory framework, or clear non-statutory guidance, raises series data protection and privacy concerns, and exposes the inadequacy of the piecemeal manner in which certain aspects of the Prevent strategy and Channel programme [the counterpart in England and Wales of Scotland's "Prevent professional Concerns programme] have (or have not) been put on a statutory footing, with the result that the programme has not been subject to proper searching examination by Parliament and civil society."
Rights Watch UK recommended:
"That the Prevent strategy and Channel programme insofar as they apply to schools must be repealed and abandoned."
The National Council of the Educational Institute of Scotland - Scotland's main teaching union - agreed a motion in January saying:
"That this Council is opposed to Islamophobia and calls for a campaign of resistance against attempts to make training in Prevent strategies mandatory for all teachers and lecturers. Council rejects, and will campaign against, the threats to freedom of speech in educational institutions posed by the definition of extremism contained in the joint UK and Scottish Government guidance, because of the broad range of individuals and groups who may at some point fall foul of it."
The Prevent training given to Glasgow teachers last week was included as part of a wider package of training that covered a range of issues. The Prevent element amounted to no more than a brief introduction to the strategy. By giving teachers sketchy information about a policy that is in any case confused, ill-founded and destructive, Glasgow has placed staff in a very difficult position.
Guidance teachers were given Prevent training earlier in the year. This training may have been more comprehensive than the training given to classroom teachers last week.
SACC is concerned that teachers given sketchy training will feel under pressure to report students on the basis of poorly-informed suspicions, with the decision then passed to better-trained senior staff who may feel under pressure to demonstrate compliance with Prevent. This is a recipe for incidents that will threaten the rights of students and bring ridicule on teaching staff.
Prevent deals with non-criminal matters. But a decision to act upon a Prevent concern will lead to students being reported to police. The police may then instigate a multi-agency Prevent Professional Concerns meeting at which they will play a key role. The meeting may propose a support plan - effectively a de-radicalisation programme - for the student. This is supposedly voluntary, but a student's decision to participate is likely to be influenced by the risk of continued police attention.
Prevent training emphasises the supposed vulnerability to radicalisation of people with personal, social and mental health problems. It is likely to lead to vulnerable people, who are in need of support but not of police attention, being brought to the attention of the police.
Data-sharing and data-protection policies for Prevent have not been published. In any case, there seems no realistic prospect of controlling the use that police make of intelligence that they believe relates to terrorism or to the ideology supposedly behind terrorism. Information obtained about students under Prevent potentially allows police to gather intelligence on whole families. That's the reason why young children have been reported under Prevent in England. There is no way of ensuring that this information will not be shared with British and overseas intelligence and security agencies.
Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:
"Prevent puts police at the centre of support arrangements for vulnerable people who are not suspected of any crime. That's completely inappropriate under any circumstances. What's even worse is that it puts people in the cross-hairs of the surveillance state for trivial reasons. Officials continue to deny that Prevent is aimed at intelligence-gathering. Regardless of its aims, its effect is to turn teachers into key nodes in the most wide-ranging network for gathering human intelligence that Britain has ever built. It's a snitchers' charter. Worse yet, it's a charter for racist snitchers. It's crazy and deeply damaging to our education and society."
Students who are reported under Prevent potentially have their rights violated. School staff complicit in reporting them put themselves at risk of legal action. Rights Watch UK said in their July report 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.
SACC calls on Education Scotland and Glasgow City Council to issue immediate advice to teaching staff to disregard any Prevent training they have received, and to place a moratorium on any further training.
Notes For Editors
- 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.
- SACC called for a moratorium on Prevent training in a statement issued on 17 July
- The Rights Watch UK report "Preventing Education? Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools." is here.
- SACC's policy on Prevent is at www.sacc.org.uk/press/2015/resisting-prevent-sacc-statement
- SACC's advice to people targeted by Prevent is at: http://www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2016/know-your-rights-under-prevent