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Prevent Is Marginalising BAME Teachers And Students Alike

The government's counter-terrorism strategy in schools is working, apparently. Or does that just depend on who you ask?

  • Prevent Is Marginalising BAME Teachers And Students Alike

Exactly two years after its implementation, it has now been proven, Prevent – the Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy that was brought into schools and colleges as a statutory duty in July 2015 – works.

A recent report claims that Prevent is effective in safeguarding all students from the dangers of extremism and terrorism. And, teachers are comfortable with implementing it. It states that, “…very few respondents directly questioned the legitimacy of the duty or expressed wholesale opposition to it.”

These findings were then supported by Lord Nash (Under Secretary of State for the School System) who wrote in the Telegraph that, “we are seeing widespread confidence amongst teachers and school leaders about the role they play in safeguarding children from terrorism”.

The findings came from a study entitled, What the Prevent duty means for schools and colleges in England: An analysis of educationalists’ experiences. The research, funded by the Aziz Foundation, with support from the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, conducted the study based on 70 interviews with teachers and other professionals from 14 schools, as well as a national online survey.

But there’s more to this report than meets the eye. Like nearly every piece of research that is represented in the mainstream media, which acts to support a predetermined ideology, it can be misleading.

We need to look deeper. That is, as long as we are willing to look deeper to see what the evidence is actually telling us.

The educationalists who were personally interviewed came from schools and colleges in West Yorkshire and London, and were made up of 79% white participants.

And of the people who took the online survey 81% were also white.

Is this important? Is it relevant?

What definitely is important is that the study goes on to say that, “the overall findings of broad acceptance of the duty may reflect the fact that educational institutions are largely dominated by (usually middle class) White British professionals”.

And, it’s even more relevant when you consider that within this report you can find the evidence that there was in fact, “a strong current of concern, particularly among BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) respondents, that the Prevent duty is making it more difficult to foster an environment in which students from different backgrounds get on well with one another.”

So, to fully understand what these findings mean, we have to critique the idea that any assessment of the effectiveness of Prevent really depends on whom you ask.

The report highlights that through their survey they, “found widespread – and in some cases very acute – concerns about increased stigmatisation of Muslim students in the context of the Prevent duty.” It continues with findings such as, “the Prevent duty might fuel feelings among Muslim students of being stigmatised” and that, “the monitoring and disciplining procedures that Prevent entails remain disproportionately focused on Muslim students.”

But who held these views? And were they shared across everyone who took part?

According to the study, white teachers are comfortable with Prevent, believe that there is a definite need for it and are happy about the way it has been implemented in schools.

The report found that, “…fairly high levels of confidence among school and college staff indicate that they are broadly comfortable with the duty and what it entails”. And the only criticism – from white people – is when the Prevent agenda is perceived to be carried out badly or, astonishingly, when it increases their workload!

There are four pages in the report dedicated to looking at teacher workload when carrying out Prevent. You can imagine staffrooms up and down the country: “I mean, I’m all for Prevent – it’s what the country needs, especially after all these attacks. I’m confident it’s the right thing to do…but, oh my God, the paperwork!!”

BME teachers meanwhile feel that Prevent unnecessarily targets Muslims, shuts down debate about important subjects and has a (maybe irreversible) negative effect on Muslim students and school communities, where there is a real concern that they are being stigmatised quite simply due to the religion that they follow.

Read an excerpt from an interview of a BME (Muslim) teacher who expresses their realistic concern: “It is targeted at Muslims, it makes Muslims feel worse, or more strongly against the state, so to speak, than they would normally have. I mean I am [a] very moderate [Muslim] – but to me I still dislike that, the Prevent agenda, and I feel like it’s targeting Muslims.”

So, should more BME teachers be encouraged to stand up and actively criticise Prevent?

Based on a recent study, Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers (published jointly by NASUWT with The Runnymede Trust), BME teachers are already being harassed and ostracised via deep-rooted endemic and institutionalised racism in schools. So, you can’t blame BME teachers if they feel uncomfortable or worried in doing so.

Just like the students discussed in the report, “They know they can’t say things, they know that they are not allowed to get involved in things, they know it will bring them trouble if they make comments or say things” it would appear that BME and possibly, especially Muslim staff, feel inhibited by concerns that any vocal or active opposition might lead to fear of investigations, being negatively labelled or discriminated against.

Maybe it’s up to more white educationalists to be increasingly vocal about Prevent and the harm it is doing to students, and to offer up credible solutions. There are a small number of white people who are discrediting the Prevent duty, but when the report itself highlights the fact that people who work in schools and colleges are predominantly, “White British professionals”, this number needs to increase, and quickly.

Muslim students need and want to see all their teachers standing up for them and looking out for them, because, let’s face it, there aren’t many people in positions of power and authority who are.

In a country when acid attacks are commonplace against Muslims, with little or no repercussions or outrage from anyone other than Muslims. Perhaps white people need to shake off their white privilege and think about what this strategy is doing to students, after all, isn’t the Prevent agenda just as corrosive?

Tait Coles Teacher is a teacher and author. He wrote a book on Punk Learning and is currently writing another, called Pedagogy of Hope; Islamophobia, Schools, Students & Social Justice. You can find him at taitcoles.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter at @TotallyWired77.

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