Busher, Joel, Choudhury, Tufyal, Thomas, Paul and Harris, Gareth (2017) What the Prevent duty means for schools and colleges in England: An analysis of educationalists’ experiences. Research Report. Aziz Foundation.

In July 2015, a legal duty came into force requiring that ‘specified authorities’, including schools and further education colleges (‘colleges’), show ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ – popularly referred to as the ‘Prevent duty’. Since the Prevent duty was put before Parliament, it has been the focus of extensive and often highly polarised public debate. While the UK government has argued that the duty ‘doesn’t and shouldn’t stop schools from discussing controversial issues’, critics of the duty have maintained that it will have, and is having, a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech on schools and colleges. In addition, while the UK government has insisted that Prevent and the Prevent duty relate to all forms of extremism, critics argue that, whatever the intention of individual policymakers, practitioners and professionals, Prevent and the Prevent duty continue in practice to concentrate overwhelmingly on Muslim communities, thereby exacerbating stigmatisation of Muslim students.

These debates made clear an urgent requirement for a stronger evidence base from which to understand and assess how the Prevent duty is playing out in schools and colleges. This report begins to respond to this requirement. Focusing on the experiences and attitudes of school and college staff, it examines four questions: 1) How has the new Prevent duty been interpreted by staff in schools and colleges in England? 2) How confident do school/college staff feel with regards to implementing the Prevent duty? 3) What impacts, if any, do school/college staff think the Prevent duty has had on their school or college, and on their interactions with students and parents? 4) To what extent, if at all, have school/college staff opposed or questioned the legitimacy of the Prevent duty?

The report is based on in-depth qualitative interviews with 70 education professionals across 14 schools and colleges in 2 areas of England (West Yorkshire and London); in-depth qualitative interviews with 8 local authority level Prevent practitioners working in different local authority areas to support schools and colleges; and a national online survey of educationalists (n=225).

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