The chief inspector of schools’ intervention into the running of seven London schools shines a light onto several emerging developments in the Prevent strategy for countering violent extremism. Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, identified that in six independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets, pupils may be vulnerable to “extremist influences and radicalisation”. In a seventh school, the Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat secondary school, insufficient responses were made to social media after an student Islamic society Facebook group posted links to extremist viewpoints.
Following similar allegations made recently about schools in Birmingham, known as the “Trojan Horse” affair, it is becoming clear that the education sector is being forced on to the “frontline” for tackling extremism.
This is a trajectory of development that can be traced back to the review of the Prevent Strategy commissioned by the Coalition government in 2010. This review sought to “refresh” Prevent and to re-orientate it in several important ways. Especially significant was a move to lessen the emphasis on and investment in “grassroots” community-based interventions. Instead, all statutory agencies were to be required to perform more of the work in identifying individuals at risk of radicalisation and delivering interventions to mitigate these risks.