Teachers urged to disregard prevent counter-terrorism training
A campaign group is urging teachers in Scotland to disregard ‘sketchy’ counter-terrorism training.
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) claims that the training given to teachers as part of Glasgow City Council’s efforts to implement the controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy is likely to put teachers under pressure to pass information on their students to the police.
Although guidance teachers in the city have received more in-depth training in the policy, the group claims classroom teachers have only received a brief overview.
In a statement the group said: “SACC is concerned that teachers given sketchy training will feel under pressure to report students on the basis of poorly-informed suspicions, with the decision then passed to better-trained senior staff who may feel under pressure to demonstrate compliance with Prevent. This is a recipe for incidents that will threaten the rights of students and bring ridicule on teaching staff.”
Another group, called Prevent Watch, has collected a series of case studies of a similar policy in action in England, where children have been erroneously accused of being “vulnerable to extremism.”
Trade unions in the education sector have criticised the Prevent policy, amid claims it is Islamphobic and threatens freedom of speech.
The UK Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Human Rights has also criticised the implementation of the Prevent policy, concluding that: “The current oversight arrangements for Prevent are too opaque and do not engender confidence.”
Glasgow city council is not the only Scottish authority that is training staff.
Last November The Ferret revealed that 4,200 public sector workers had been trained in the policy.
The Ferret has also published earlier drafts of counter-terrorism training produced by Glasgow City Council that suggested environmental and anti-nuclear campaigners could be considered terrorist threats.
Since then heavily redacted documents obtained by The Ferret show that Scottish local authorities are working to detailed local action plans.
One document shows that South Lanarkshire Council produced bespoke educational materials designed to provide counter-terrorism training to children as young as 12.
Actions to be taken by councils include adding web-filters to stop users of council computers from viewing websites deemed inappropriate, adopting policies to stop people from distributing leaflets and flyers that are thought to “promote extremism,” and altering funding agreements and procurement arrangements so that local charities and suppliers are also forced to share information and comply with the new policy.
Dubbing the Prevent policy a ‘snitchers charter,’ Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, raised concerns over the extent of the data sharing that Prevent requires, as well as its impact on vulnerable people.
This is because when teachers, or any other worker raises a concern through Prevent, that person is reported to the police. The police may then instigate a “multi-agency Prevent Professional Concerns meeting” at which they will play a key role.
He said: “Prevent puts police at the centre of support arrangements for vulnerable people who are not suspected of any crime. That’s completely inappropriate under any circumstances.
“What’s even worse is that it puts people in the cross-hairs of the surveillance state for trivial reasons. Officials continue to deny that Prevent is aimed at intelligence-gathering. Regardless of its aims, its effect is to turn teachers into key nodes in the most wide-ranging network for gathering human intelligence that Britain has ever built. It’s a snitchers’ charter. Worse yet, it’s a charter for racist snitchers. It’s crazy and deeply damaging to our education and society.”
Police Scotland have refused to release figures on the number of people reported to them through Prevent even though these numbers are reported in England and Wales.