Counter-Terrorism and Security Act: The Prevention Duty

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act received Royal Assent on 12 February 2015.  Under this Act, schooling institutions now have a legal duty to prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism. The Government has published draft guidance (final guidance will follow soon) relating to the prevention duty which, as well as other specific authorities, applies to Higher Education institutions, Further Education institutions and Schools, now giving them a responsibility to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas that support or are shared by terrorist groups. 

Most Higher Education institutions already have a clear understanding of their Prevent related responsibilities. Under the new guidance, active engagement is required from Vice Chancellors and senior management teams with Police, Local Authorities and Prevent co-ordinators with a nominated single point of contact for delivery of prevent. Risk assessments need to be carried out about how their students may be at risk of being drawn into terrorism and any institution that identifies a risk should develop a prevent action plan. The institution must demonstrate it is willing to undertake Prevent awareness training, there should be sufficient chaplaincy and pastoral support for all students and filters should be considered in relation to safety online and the use of IT on campus. 

Furthermore, there is also an important role for Further Education institutions, including sixth form colleges, in helping to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism. Similarly to Higher Education institutions, active engagement from senior management teams with Police, Local Authorities and Prevent co-ordinators is required with a nominated single point of contact for delivery of prevent. It is necessary to have clear and visible policies identifying where staff or students may be at risk and risk assessments, to address the physical management of the institution's estate including procedures for events, should be in place. Appropriate training and development for Governors, learners and staff is required and there should be a use of internet filters to exclude extremist content to ensure students are safe online. 

For schools (which exclude Higher and Further Education institutions), senior management and governors are expected to assess the risk of pupils being drawn into terrorism and demonstrate that they are protecting children and young people by having robust safeguarding policies in place to identify children at risk. Institutions will be required to work in partnership with other bodies in the area and staff should have training that gives them the knowledge to identify children at risk. All publically-funded schools (including academies and free schools) are inspected by Ofsted and the guidance suggests that Ofsted's remit will be widened to include the monitoring of compliance with the prevent duty. 

The provisions for schools are expected to come into force in the next few months, subject to further potential parliamentary law changes.