Prevent Duty Guidance: Safeguarding Priorities for 2023
In this blog, Elizabeth Kitto, a qualified educator and creator of government Prevent/EDI training, with experience in working for UK counter-terrorism agencies, discusses the ‘Prevent duty guidance: England and Wales (2023)’, highlighting priorities for schools and education settings, including the latest changes to the document.
Based on new legislation published by the government, there have been changes to the Prevent duty. However, it is worth noting that, according to the government, the “updated guidance places no new legal requirements of additional responsibilities on educational settings”.
What does existing Prevent duty guidance say?
All schools and settings should continue to:
1. ensure that staff understand the Prevent duty as a requirement within wider safeguarding
This means that all school staff should understand that Prevent is a safeguarding mechanism like any other. If we have fears about neglect, child sexual exploitation (CSE) or any manner of safeguarding issues, we have a duty to refer to external agencies. Prevent is exactly the same. It is not a system of criminalisation. In fact, no one on the Prevent programme is given a criminal record. Instead, it is a system whereby people can get support to leave spaces that put them at risk due to ideological terrorism.
Staff need to know their duties, and senior staff should also make it as easy as possible for them to find out what these duties are. Prevent information should be written in your safeguarding documents, and made clear and visible. While you do not need a separate policy, it is important to have a paragraph or two imbedded in the wider safeguarding documentation for schools and nurseries to outline that Prevent is a key part of your safeguarding priorities.
2. be certain that staff understand the pathways towards referral
In essence, all staff should know to speak to a safeguarding lead when they have concerns. Remember, Ofsted can ask anyone on premises about how to make a Prevent referral. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that no one on site can be caught out. Staff should feel comfortable in identifying risks and understanding the actions they should take when needed.
3. provide staff with proportional training and a lead/specialist in Prevent
Ideally, full staff training in Prevent should be undertaken at least once every two years, or more if risks are high in your region or there have been changes to guidance. Senior leaders may require more training than other staff. Ensuring proportional and non-alarmist training is delivered at an appropriate level is key.
In addition to this, there should be one senior lead who is directly responsible for the delivery of the Prevent duty. This is often the DSL, but not always.
What changes have been made to Prevent guidance?
While there are no new legal duties, focus has shifted a little and certain areas of guidance have changed.
There are five important changes:
A change has been made to the first of the three Prevent objectives which now reads, “Tackling the ideological causes of terrorism”. While this sounds like nothing but semantics, the change is important, and the reason why is clear in the Prevent statistics from last year.
These show that, of the 6,406 referrals made to Prevent, less than a quarter were ever forwarded into the Prevent process. Almost 60% were immediately handed to other services. This indicates that while those being referred did have safeguarding needs, most did not fall into Prevent’s remit. While there is no issue in referring if you are unsure, the government has published these statistics in part to indicate that Prevent is regularly misapplied, for example in cases of mental health or female genital mutilation (FGM).
As such, the new objective highlights the word ‘ideology’. An ideology is a set of beliefs, especially political beliefs, on which people, parties, or countries base their actions. While not all ideologies are dangerous, those that promote violence do present a risk.
The new Prevent guidance reiterates that, unless a young person or their family member is putting themselves or others in danger due to an ideological view, it is not a Prevent referral. This is not to say that there is no crossover between Prevent and other services, but it does emphasise the fact that Prevent is a service which is both complementary but also distinct from pathways around neglect, mental health and others.
Furthermore, while there is also a new thematic focus on “reducing permissive environments”, in reality this is something you are already doing in your curriculum, be it through tackling hate or promoting fundamental British values. So, though the thematic focus is new, there is little that needs changing practically.
2. Information sharing
The new guidance reiterates that the sharing of Prevent information should be treated in the same manner as wider safeguarding issues; however, the way that information is shared has changed. The Home Office has two systems regarding Prevent: funded areas and non-funded areas.
The funded areas are priority areas. In these regions, frankly, the risk of terrorism is higher. As such, there is a dedicated local Prevent service. If you are in a funded area, your local Prevent service will handle your referrals. You simply call or email the lead, education officer or community officer. If you are not sure if you are in a funded area, a simple google should provide the information you need.
Hopefully, if you are in a priority area, this will not be required as you should be regularly receiving information from your Prevent lead or education officer, and it is highly likely that they have made themselves known to you already.
In non-funded areas, the risk of terrorism is deemed to be lower. As such, there is no need for a dedicated team. If you are in a non-funded area, you refer to Prevent using the national referral form. This system is being rolled out nationally and helps to streamline referrals. You simply fill the form in and email it to the address given. Also, as this form is being rolled out nationally, do not worry if you are in a funded area and use the form, as you will still get a response.
Guidance has not changed substantially in this latest update, but there is greater emphasis on local threat pictures. In short, senior leaders should know the risks in their area specifically, as well as the risks nationally. Indeed, the threat picture is quite different in different regions.
By knowing what the risks are in our local areas, we are better able to help safeguard young people or identify vulnerabilities. If you would like more details on your local threat picture, contact your local Prevent teams, the LADO in your local authority, or the police, who should have an understanding of the current picture.
4. Speakers: FE/6th form environments
Rather than guidance around deplatforming problematic speakers, it is now advised that freedom of speech should be balanced with protecting learners. To be clear, there is no prescription from the government around deplatforming.
However, practically speaking, professional judgement should indicate that inviting a potentially radical and problematic figure to speak with teens in a classroom may not be suitable.
New resources have been launched to help with training and self-assessment (please see links below). The new self-assessment framework, which differs from the previous government model, can help educational environments review their obligations and make steps towards ensuring that they meet all requirements. While it is not a necessity to use this particular format, it is strongly encouraged.
Home Office, ‘Prevent duty guidance: England and Wales (2023)’ - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-guidance
Home Office, ‘Prevent duty training’, 2023 - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-duty-training
Home Office, ‘Prevent duty animation - public sector staff working together to stop radicalisation’, 2023 (video for the public sector) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaMyGokLMvk
Educate against Hate ‘The Prevent duty: the role of education in safeguarding learners from radicalisation’, 2023 (video for educators) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeNmzvupe_U
DfE, ‘Prevent duty: risk assessment templates’, 2023 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-duty-risk-assessment-templates
DfE, ‘The Prevent duty: safeguarding learners vulnerable to radicalisation’, 2023 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-prevent-duty-safeguarding-learners-vulnerable-to-radicalisation
DfE, ‘Prevent duty guidance update: a briefing for schools and early years providers’, 2023 - https://www.educateagainsthate.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Prevent-Duty-Guidance-Schools-and-early-years-providers-briefing-note-1.pdf
HM Government, ‘CONTEST: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism’, 2023 - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1180064/CONTEST_2023.pdf
Home Office, ‘Individuals referred to and supported through the Prevent Programme, April 2021 to March 2022’, 2023 - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/individuals-referred-to-and-supported-through-the-prevent-programme-april-2021-to-march-2022/individuals-referred-to-and-supported-through-the-prevent-programme-april-2021-to-march-2022