The duty to prevent terrorism in schools update: external speakers and events
Following our article earlier this year about the prevent duty introduced by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 ('the Act'), recent regulations have been passed allowing for the Secretary of State to provide guidance on how to achieve this duty when managing external speakers or events.
The prevent duty obliges specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. Specified authorities include Schools, Further Education and Higher Education institutions. The various obligations these institutions will need to consider are explored in our previous article.
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Guidance) Regulations 2015 ('the Regulations') came into effect on 18 September 2015. This specifically addresses the issue of managing the duties under the Act for external speakers and events.
For both Further Education and Higher Education institutions, policies and procedures should be put in place for events held on the institution's premises or campus. There is a need to balance protection of students and staff with the freedom of speech. Care should be taken, however, not to provide a platform for encouragement of terrorism or inviting support of terrorist organisations.
Consideration needs to be taken regarding whether an external speaker with extremist views could potentially risk breaching this duty. Some mitigation may be offered by way of challenging the ideas and offering alternative views. However, if the risk cannot be mitigated in this way then cancellation of the event should be considered. Proper procedures and mechanisms should be put in place in order to assess the risk of speakers.
Institutions should be aware of the risk of extremism internally as well. It is important to consider procedures for identifying internal risks and how to respond to these.
Within the Higher Education guidance, there is an additional reminder of the responsibilities on these institutions in relation to gender segregation as well as previous 2013 guidance from Universities UK in deciding whether to host events and having appropriate safeguards in place.