Education plays an important role in developing a student’s personality. Children spend much of their waking hours in school and teachers have a responsibility in helping their students reach their full potential. Ensuring the social and emotional development of children is a critical aspect of a teacher’s role. Therefore, they have a profound effect on the lives of their students.
With advances in technology, teachers and students alike are making use of the Internet to supplement lectures, get access to online courses and extra materials and resources. The Web is now akin to a worldwide virtual school. According to an article published in The Guardian, children are referring to the Internet more than ever before, not just for educational purposes but for recreational purposes too.
With students as young as four using the Internet, it is in their best interests to safeguard them against its more unscrupulous elements. Online radicalisation is one such potential hazard. This can happen when an individual accesses extremist views and starts to believe and support them. This may also result in a change in behaviour and beliefs. Our earlier article highlighted why radicalisation is a serious issue which needs immediate attention.
What can schools and educators do, according to the law?
The UK Government published the Prevent Duty Guidance in 2015, which listed the duties of schools in tackling online radicalisation. It states:
“[Schools] are subject to the duty to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Being drawn into terrorism includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit.”
This does not mean students are barred from discussing sensitive topics like terrorist ideologies and extremist ideas. But it does mean that schools are advised to be mindful of presenting a balanced approach to these issues.
The guidance expects schools and educators to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism. There should be a general understanding of the risks that can affect children as well as identifying children who may be at risk of being radicalised. Teachers must be aware of what to do to support such children.
If Head Teachers and others in leadership positions ensure that staff understand radicalisation, they will have the capabilities to deal with it. They will be better equipped to challenge extremist ideas and be more aware of where and how to handle students who need further help.
Establishing appropriate levels of filtering can go a long way in ensuring the safety of students from terrorist and extremist material.
Working in partnership
Schools need to co-operate with local Prevent staff, police, civil society organisations and other appropriate agencies. Engaging with parents is also considered important as they may be in a key position to spot the signs of radicalisation.
Educators can also encourage an environment in which students can debate controversial issues. Teaching students to critically appraise online sources of information will help them build resilience to online radicalisation. For in-depth guidance, you can always refer to our article on building online resilience.