School terror rules ‘will push Muslim children away’

The school has been proposed by the Trust behind Rugby Free Primary School
The school has been proposed by the Trust behind Rugby Free Primary School

New laws that make schools legally responsible for children at risk of radicalisation could alienate youngsters from their teachers, according to a Luton faith leader.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which came into force yesterday, have set out new responsibilities for ‘frontline workers’ in public bodiesto tackle extremism.

Teachers across the country now have to assess the risk that their pupils face of “being drawn into terrorism”.

Staff will be trained how to identify children at risk and how to “challenge extremist ideas”.

A telephone hotline has also been set up for school staff to directly contact the Department for Education with their concerns.

National Union of Teachers leader Christine Blower has criticised the rules, telling the government that “teachers cannot be turned into spies in the classroom.”

The bill is part of the government’s reviewed ‘Prevent’ strategy, which identifies Luton as one of 25 priority areas across England. Also on the list is High Wycombe.

Abdul Qadeer Baksh, Luton Islamic Centre chairman and Olive Tree Primary School headteacher, told the Herald & Post that the new rules could distance Muslim children from their teachers.

He said: “I’m worried about how this going to be implemented in schools as a child may something innocent that will be treated as if they are being taught extremism at home.

“It will put a huge amount of separation between children practising Islam and their teachers as it will make them feel unwelcome and not part of society.”

Mr Baksh added: “I do not totally disagree with everything that Prevent is doing, there definitely is a problem.

“They are just doing it in a way that causes more harm than good.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Extremism has no place in our schools and recent events have shown the risks of young people being targeted by radical groups should not be underestimated.

“Schools and childcare providers already play an important role in protecting and safeguarding young people including from radicalisation and extremism.

“We have issued new advice to help them understand their role under the new Prevent duty, which informs them about other sources of information, advice and support.”