Staff trained in anti-extremism placed in every city school
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.