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Spies in the classroom - Thousands of Glasgow teachers trained in counter-terrorism policy

Press Release from SACC, 16 October 2016

According to Glasgow City Council, nearly 5000 Glasgow teachers have been trained this year in a controversial Government policy called Prevent. The policy is said to be aimed at preventing people turning to terrorism. SACC believes that the policy is Islamophobic, is directed towards suppressing legitimate opposition to British foreign policy and at creating intelligence-gathering opportunities for the police, and is more likely to drive people towards terrorism than away from it.

A report published by Rights Watch UK in July said that Prevent is "not fit for purpose" and that Prevent should be abandoned insofar as it applies to schools.

Glasgow City Council said in response to a recent freedom of information request (included in full below) that 403 council staff, including 370 teachers, have this year been given WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent) training. WRAP is the most comprehensive form of Prevent training in general use. SACC believes that the teachers given this training are probably mainly guidance teachers - staff in promoted positions with responsibility for the personal, curricular and vocational guidance of students.

Glasgow City Council said that a further 8700 council staff, including 4596 teachers, have this year been given some other form of training covering Prevent or awareness of Prevent. SACC believes that the training given to teachers is likely to have been an element of wider training given at the start of the current school term. The Prevent element of the training may have been small but it is significant because, taken in combination with the comprehensive training given to guidance teachers, it creates a reporting chain through which students or staff showing supposed signs of vulnerability can be reported.

Cases will be reported by the school to police, who may then initiate a multi-agency case conference which can decide to offer "support" to the vulnerable person. According to a Police Scotland document on crime prevention strategy, published last year, the officers dealing with Prevent cases will "work together with Pursue colleagues to coordinate options". Prevent and Pursue are two strands of the Government's overall counter-terrorism strategy, called Contest. Pursue represents the "hard" end of counter-terrorism policing. It is directed towards stopping terrorist attacks and includes criminal investigations and prosecutions. So vulnerable students who are not suspected of any crime are brought into contact with anti-terrorism police.

The EIS - Scotland's main teaching union - rejects Prevent and is opposed to mandatory Prevent training. Glasgow City Council has driven a coach and horses through this policy by giving WRAP training to selected staff and then including a Prevent element in standard, widely-used training. This means that Prevent is now operational in Glasgow schools. Glasgow school students and their families are now at risk, and Glasgow teachers are in an invidious position.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC said:

"If left unchecked, Prevent will contribute to the spread of racist and Islamophobic ideas and will create a culture of suspicion mainly directed against Muslims. It will poison relations between teachers and students and their families. The clear opposition of the EIS to Prevent is well-founded and welcome, but the response of the EIS to the roll-out of Prevent in Scotland has unfortunately turned out to be too little too late. The EIS must now act urgently to boycott any further training and to ensure that members refuse any involvement in any process potentially directed towards reporting students to police for non-criminal conduct. Schools and teaching unions must ensure that teachers are properly informed about their obligations under human rights law and about the potential conflict between these obligations and the Prevent strategy. Teachers must ensure that students and their families are informed that they can refuse to cooperate with Prevent and are advised to avoid discussing any Prevent-related matter - especially with police - without a lawyer present.

"A decade ago, Tayside Chief Constable John Vine said: 'What we have to change is the mindset which questions whether it is appropriate to gather intelligence in schools.' His pilot scheme to put anti-terror police into classrooms provoked an outcry and was eventually dropped. Today, the authorities are trying to put police officers inside the heads of teachers. It has to stop."

Police have so far refused to disclose the content of the WRAP training package, but it is available online thanks to a leak. SACC is running workshops in which we take a critical look at WRAP and examine the ways in which it creates racist outcomes. We encourage trade union branches and other organisations to contact us to arrange a workshop.
We also encourage families of school students to pick up our quick reference guide to dealing with Prevent in Scotland. Our advice is also available on our website.

Freedom of Information response from Glasgow City Council

Thank you for your email received on 1 September 2016 requesting that the following information be provided to you:

"Please let me know the following, in connection with Glasgow City Council's participation in the Government's CONTEST - PREVENT strategy

1. For each of the last 5 years (including the current year to date), please let me know:
a) How many Council employees have received WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent) training?
b) How many Council employees have completed online training in Prevent?
c) How many Council employees have been provided with any other form of training covering Prevent or awareness of Prevent?

2. For each of the figures requested in (1), please let me know:
(i) How many of the staff who received Prevent training worked in the social work service area?
(ii) How many of the staff who receiver Prevent training worked in the health care service area?
(iii) How many of the staff who receiver Prevent training were teachers?

3. For each of the last 5 years (including the current year to date), please let me know the number of Prevent incidents recorded by the Council"
Glasgow City Council ("The Council") is treating your request as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 ("the Act") and can respond to your request as follows:

1) Prevent Training and Awareness including WRAPS. There was no formal Prevent Training in the years 2012, 2013 or 2014.
a) WRAPS delivered
In 2015 this was delivered to 9 members of staff of which none were teachers,none in Health care and one was in the Social work Service.
In 2016 this was delivered to 403 members of staff of which 370 were teachers, none in Health care and 7 in Social work Services.
b) There has been no online training in use for Prevent during the requested period.
c) other forms of training covering Prevent or awareness of Prevent:In 2015 There were no other forms of training or awareness
In 2016 8700 staff of which 4596 were teachers, 19 in Social Work Services, none in health care.

2) see answers above

3) We can advise that the Council may hold information relating to your request. However, where the Council considers that it would be contrary to the public interest to reveal whether the information exists at all or is held by it, then by virtue of Section 18 of the Act, the Council is entitled to refuse the request without confirming or denying that such information is held by it. If this information did exist it would fall under the provisions of Section 18 of the Act.

In this instance, we consider that to reveal whether this exists, or is held by the Council, would be contrary to the public interest. If the council did hold such information then we consider that releasing this in response to an FOI request would in some circumstances carry the risk of identifying the individuals concerned, even if the information were apparently anonymised. Accordingly, If the information did exist, or was held by us, we consider that it would be exempt from a request under section 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 because of the exemption contained in s 38(1)(b) of the Act. In other words, in our opinion disclosure of the information (if it existed) would involve disclosure of personal data as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended) and that such disclosure would breach the Data Protection Principles contained in Schedule 1 Part 1 of that Act. For these reasons, we are refusing your request under section 18(1) of FOISA.

We are not aware of any specific public interest in relation to this request, which would outweigh these factors and accordingly are unable to comply with these parts of your request.

Note from SACC

Glasgow City Council seems to be under-estimating the extent of its Prevent training in earlier years. The statement "there was no formal Prevent training in the years 2012, 2013 or 2014" appears to conflict with information obtained last year by The Ferret investigative journalism website. A Glasgow City Council Evaluation Report published by The Ferret says: "WRAPS delivered to approximately 30 Social Work Protection Managers from across City in October 2012"

Glasgow City Council also told The Ferret that 1424 staff members had accessed, and 546 staff members had completed, an online course called Protect Against Terrorism that included Prevent. The dates on which staff accessed the material aren't clear, but the material contains a reference to mass murder carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway in July 2011. So it seems that this information may be in conflict with the statement: "There has been no online training in use for Prevent during the requested period."

Additional Notes For Editors

  1. For the July 2016 report by Rights Watch UK on Prevent in Education, see Preventing Education? Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools 
  2. The Police Scotland document on Crime Prevention strategy, referred to above, is here
  3. The leaked WRAP training material is here
  4. For SACC's advice on dealing with Prevent see Know Your Rights Under Prevent
  5. For John Vine's comment on intelligence-gathering in schools, see The Scotsman