My positive experience of the #Prevent duty in schools #safeguarding 

There has been a lot in the press about the Prevent duty, mainly negative. The overall concern is that teachers are spying on pupils and preventing them from having the freedom to express their own point of views. I am not sure what the case is in other schools but I this isn’t what we do at our school and it wasn’t suggested at my recent WRAP training. I have only positive feedback to give.

Here is my experience of the prevent procedure. Two sixth form boys went to a member of staff concerned that their friend was posting hateful material on YouTube. They gave the member of staff the account details and the member of staff watched the video and was concerned as well. They passed it onto me as per their Prevent training a couple of months previous to this incident. I watched the video and other material linked to the site. It was a mixture of edited historian videos and films, with voice overs from English and American politicians. There was no explainton for the videos, nor was there on any of the other videos, which included nazi videos, 9/11 footage and knocking down of the wall in Germany. If I am honest, I was confused and thought many people could be offended. So I called the boy in for a chat along with my Esafety officer. I asked him to explain the videos, hoping that he would say they were a joke and that he would take them down. He however said that this was his point of view and that he hated all religion and then went on to make some strong racial comments. He claimed his videos were black humour but with an true educational purpose behind them. I explained why I was concerned and he refused to back down expressing some anger towards ALL religious faiths. I also explained that it was my duty to report him to the Prevent police and that I didn’t have a choice in the matter, he didn’t bat an eye lid.

So I followed the safeguarding procedure and filled out the form and made a referral ( and a phone call informing them that I was filling out the form, it was 3:30 on a Thursday and they presumed that school finished then so suggested I wait until tomorrow, our school goes on till 4:30). The form wasn’t in detail so I couldn’t really put everything down, but I wasn’t really concerned that he was being groomed, I was more concerned that he was encouraging racial hatred and that he felt he had every right to do this. A week later I got a phone call from a Prevent police officer who was very good, asking questions. He was concerned and sent me another form to fill in. 8 pages. It took me two days to fill in the form and in the mean time the pupil had graffiti the toilets with a diagram of  someone blowing up another person, but obviously showing different faiths. Again I spoke to him and explained that the police had been in contact and he wasn’t bothered. He claimed he was just doing it for a reaction, I spoke to parents who were at wits end and supported us contacting the police.

Again a week later we had a visit from two prevent police officers to talk to the pupil, his parents and myself. And I cannot sing their praised enough. They were very honest with him. Explained what they are dealing with at the moment.  And although he had every right to express his views, what he needed to be aware of was the consequences. That if he said these things in another area ( my school is very rural and quiet) then he could upset a lot of people and could be considered a hate crime.  He had upset people at our school, (but he couldn’t see past this), but the police mans angle was exactly what the pupil needed. The police man wasn’t threatening or disrespectful, and he realised he was dealing with an intelligent adult. Since then the student has continued  with his black humour although a lot less offensive or topical and put footnotes to explain his thoughts and reasons. This has balanced his work considerable and you can see that he is trying to be controversial but for a purpose.

We as a school don’t spy on pupils and we don’t presume things without asking a few questions ( just like we wouldn’t with any other safeguarding issue). But when it does get tricky we need support and I am pleased to say that I was very impressed with the support that we got. I have to say that my experience of the Prevent police has been a positive one.

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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