Staff trained in anti-ex­trem­ism placed in ev­ery city school

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

ALL of Birm­ing­ham’s 464 schools have staff trained in the Pre­vent antiex­trem­ism pro­gramme – de­signed to stop young­sters at risk of be­ing groomed by ter­ror­ists.

The city coun­cil’s Pre­vent boss says that much of the neg­a­tiv­ity and con­tro­versy around the Home Of­fice scheme, which chal­lenges both Is­lamic and Far Right ex­trem­ism, is dwin­dling as more and more or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as schools and mosques, sign up.

Birm­ing­ham’s Pre­vent lead Waqar Ahmed told coun­cil­lors that a re­cent Home Of­fice re­view found the city coun­cil to be a na­tional leader on the pro­mot­ing agenda in schools. There are now a to­tal of 680 Home Of­fice ac­cred­ited Pre­vent train­ers in Birm­ing­ham schools.

It marks ma­jor progress since 2015 when Birm­ing­ham’s rep­u­ta­tion for chal­leng­ing ex­trem­ism in school was tar­nished by the Tro­jan Horse scan­dal and many among the city’s wider Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties re­garded Pre­vent with sus­pi­cion.

Coun­cil­lor Matt Ben­nett (Con, Edg­bas­ton) said: “There has been neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity about Pre­vent and that nar­ra­tive does ex­ist within Mus- lim com­mu­ni­ties. There are groups who have said it is a Gov­ern­ment con­spir­acy to spy on Mus­lims.”

But Mr Ahmed said that there has been neg­a­tiv­ity, not only from com­mu­ni­ties, but also or­gan­i­sa­tions like the NUT teach­ing union which was wor­ried about staff be­ing re­quired to point the fin­ger at chil­dren.

“What we tried to do is en­gage with these bod­ies, we had ro­bust con­ver­sa­tions with the teach­ing unions, so­cial work­ers and even the Royal Col­lege of Psy­chol­ogy who raised con­cerns at first.”

He said that many who were suspi- cious or crit­i­cal have changed their minds – in­clud­ing a grow­ing num­ber of Mosques.

A key prob­lem was myths about Pre­vent, such as the teacher who re­ported a pupil who mis­tak­enly de­scribed his home as a ‘ter­ror­ist house’ in­stead of ‘ter­raced’.

Oth­ers were also mis­tak­enly wor­ried they could be crim­i­nalised through the Pre­vent pro­gramme.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion does not show up on crim­i­nal record checks, he ex­plained.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est avail­able fig­ures there were 768 re­fer­rals in the West Mid­lands dur­ing 2015-16, in­clud­ing 251 chil­dren un­der 15. Mr Ahmed said that more up to date fig­ures are due to be re­leased by the Home Of­fice soon but added that about 20 per cent of re­fer­rals are now re­lated to far right ex­trem­ism and that num­ber is grow­ing.

The coun­cil’s schools scru­tiny com­mit­tee also heard from Mo­hammed Ash­faq of the Kikit char­ity which works with drug ad­dicts and al­co­holics in Spark­brook and has found many re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts, such as those who turn to faith, have proved vul­ner­a­ble to groom­ing by ex­trem­ists.

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