Preventing far right extremism? Schools in EDL and BNP heartland only monitoring ethnic minority pupils

March 31, 2015 by Melanie Newman For The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Schools in an area with a history of far-right activism have been singling out black and ethnic minority pupils in monitoring for signs of radicalisation – while suggesting white children are not at risk due to their skin colour.

The three schools, in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, have published adapted versions of the same “Radicalisation and Extremism Risk Assessment” document on their websites.

The document relates to the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy, which requires schools to protect children from being drawn into all strands of radicalised ideas, including from the far-right.

Each of the schools’ assessments say that white pupils are at low risk of radicalisation on account of their skin colour and because many families have links to the Armed Forces.

This is despite a relatively recent history of far-right activity in Barnsley, where the English Defence League and the British National Party have traditionally enjoyed strong support.

The Bureau discovered the documents while examining how widely the non-Muslim aspects of Prevent are being applied in schools and local authorities where there has previously been far right activity.

When Prevent was first launched by the Labour government in 2007 it focused on preventing Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism. The programme was criticised for damaging relationships with Muslim communities – who perceived they were being spied on – while failing to deal with far-right violence.

The policy was specifically expanded to include far right extremism in 2009, a move re-emphasised by the Coalition in 2011.

Because there is no requirement by the Department for Education for schools to publish any risk assessments carried out for Prevent, information is scarce.

The three schools identified by the Bureau published their assessments voluntarily and in good faith; all three came from the same area of Barnsley in South Yorkshire; and all three used a template approved by the Prevent team at South Yorkshire Police.

The schools are: Holy Trinity, which is a Catholic and Church of England school for pupils age three to 16; Dearne Advanced Learning Centre, a specialist humanities college which takes children aged 11 to 16; and Springwell Learning Community, which runs two schools providing special and alternative education for children aged five to 17.

After being contacted by the Bureau, one of the schools said it would amend the wording of the assessment, while a second said it “may be reviewed”. A third headmaster declined to discuss the matter.

BME cohort is monitored

The documents have several sections that school officials are asked to complete.

In one sections that asks, “Is the school particularly prone to radicalisation and extremism,” each of the three schools replied: “No. Cohort of pupils are white British majority.”

In a section evaluating the risk of radicalisation for pupils, the schools stated “None” and “low risk”, adding: “Several pupils are connected to the local armed force cadet clubs and take a keen interest in British military work.”

And in completing that section, the schools then add: “Staff continue to monitor BME [black and ethnic minority] cohort.”

In a section that asks about the risk associated with the community, the schools said there was “low risk”, adding: “The local community which the school serves consists predominantly of white British families. The community is mainly an ex-mining community with high numbers of unemployment. Many members of the community have ties to Armed Forces through current or past family members.”

The National Union of Teachers is concerned by the language used in these documents.

Read the Full Article at the BIJ site