'Safeguarding: Have you forgotten your Prevent risk assessments?' - Judicium in Headteacher Update

'Safeguarding: Have you forgotten your Prevent risk assessments?' - Judicium in Headteacher Update

Posted  5th February 2024
Schools do not seem to be as clear about the risk assessment side of their Prevent safeguarding responsibilities as they could be. James Simoniti considers why this might be and offers some pointers on filling them in

The Prevent Duty is part of the daily life of many schools and has the stated aim of stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism by tackling the ideological causes of terrorism, intervening early to support people susceptible to radicalisation, and enabling people who have already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate.

Prevent is subject to regular updates and tweaks, with the latest round of changes taking place in December 2023 and coming into force this term.

 What are the key changes? 

  • Clarification that you don’t need a parent/carer or child’s consent to share personal information about the child if they are susceptible to radicalisation.
  • Updated terminology to reflect current best practice and official terminology (“vulnerable” is now “susceptible”, for example).
  • Clearer advice on how to understand and manage risk.
  • Increased emphasis on tackling the ideological causes of terrorism.
  • Outline of the new Security Threat Check (STC), which aims to ensure that high-level decision-making within Prevent is always informed by proper consideration of the terrorism threat picture and responds proportionately.
  • Communicating the need for genuine concern about an individual’s path to radicalisation and that ideology should be a critical consideration (to improve the quality of referrals).
  • Addition of “reducing permissive environments” (which refers to limiting exposure to radicalising narratives, both online and offline, and to create an environment where radicalising ideologies are challenged and are not permitted to flourish) as a key theme to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism and broader radicalising influences.
  • A first-time reference to incels – a group of people who identify as being frustratedby a lack of opportunities to have sex and which has been linked to misogynistic views – as a group that “could meet the threshold of terrorist intent or action, should the threat or use of serious violence be used to influence the government or intimidate the public”.


Prevent risk assessment

One key element of the Prevent Duty in education is the risk assessment. However, this is often an area that many schools are less than clear about.

During our safeguarding audits this academic year we have found that very few schools actually complete a Prevent Duty risk assessment. This is explicitly part of the Prevent Duty, with paragraph 162 of the Prevent Duty Guidance (Home Office, 2015) stating: “Each setting should perform a risk assessment which assesses how their learners or staff may be at risk of being radicalised into terrorism, including online. Where specific risks are identified, settings should develop an action plan to set out the steps they will take to mitigate the risk.”

Why don’t schools complete these? Speaking with designated safeguarding leads, it is clear that more often than not they do not know about this requirement. DSLs must deal with a great deal of statutory guidance and often the minutiae can, quite understandably, be missed.

It can be a question of outlook. The “it doesn’t happen here” attitude does still exist in some settings when it comes to the concerns that Prevent aims to tackle. And so these schools consider these, unconsciously or not, to be irrelevant to their student body and wider community.

For example, a leader in the early years may say “our children are too young to be radicalised”, or a DSL at a special school may say “that is just their autism, they have not been radicalised”.

These are attitudes I have encountered, both as a police officer working with radicalised young people and through my current work supporting schools on their safeguarding responsibilities.

Of course, more often than not, DSLs are unconsciously carrying out these risk assessments on a daily basis but are quite simply not writing them down.

So, what should these risk assessments include? There is a useful template available from the Department for Education, with separate versions for early years, schools, and further education (DfE, 2023).

I would suggest some key information to consider when completing your risk assessment:

  • Consider local risks and not just national. Contact your local Prevent officer or local authority Prevent lead to ask about these risks and they can share information.
  • Don’t just think that radicalisation happens in person. Consider online risks and how your filtering and monitoring system mitigates these. Your students are at risk online too.
  • Don’t think it doesn’t apply to your setting. Special schools (these students are more vulnerable to radicalisation) and early years settings (several Ofsted reports have criticised staff’s lack of knowledge around the Prevent Duty) must still consider the risks.

Ultimately, your risk assessments should consider national and local risks to your setting, the understanding leaders and staff have of the duty and indicators, the curriculum, external speakers, and online safety. If any risks arise from this process, action should obviously be taken to mitigate these.

Remember that you will already be addressing many of these issues. For example, if your risk assessment determines that a small group of students are at risk of being radicalised online, you are probably already working with these students to deliver interventions within the online safety curriculum.

James Simoniti is a former police detective with a background of child protection policing and investigations into individuals with a position of trust. He is now a safeguarding consultant at Judicium Education, which supports schools with their safeguarding matters and carries out safeguarding audits. Judicium also offers a model searching and screening policy. Visit www.judiciumeducation.co.uk/safeguarding-service or follow @JudiciumEDU

    Headteacher Update article - https://www.headteacher-update.com/content/best-practice/safeguarding-have-you-forgotten-your-prevent-risk-assessments 

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