Bolton School Senior Boys

Headmaster's Blog Critiques Prevent Strategy

A blog on the Sunday Times’ website by Bolton School Boys’ Division Headmaster Philip Britton has urged schools to move beyond the Prevent strategy, which is part of the government’s wider counter-terrorism measures and aims to stop young people from becoming radicalised. Since July 2015, schools have had the duty to engage with the strategy.

Mr Britton says in his blog, “As headmaster of a boys’ school in one of Britain’s most multicultural towns, radicalisation is definitely on my radar and I recognise the crucial role of schools in teaching tolerance and mutual respect. But sadly, the government’s new Prevent strategy seems to be stifling the very things that will help prevent terrorism: positive challenge and healthy discussion.”

He goes on to discuss the fact that although Prevent has undoubtedly done good work, it also creates an environment in which there is a fear of saying the wrong thing, particularly about the sensitive issues of race and religion. Mr Britton talks in the blog about why this needs to change and what schools and teachers can do to promote inclusion through increased and open debate that fosters mutual understanding. He notes that “living a life of faith in modern society is difficult for anyone of whatever religion” and “the crucial point is that young Muslims must learn not to separate off and exclude themselves, but to choose instead to live a life of faith within society, not alongside society.”

Writing in the blog, he also says: “The socialisation that happens in schools should help young people take responsibility to fit into society as they find it. If young people at my school and others are to make a difference for good, then they need to be shown strong positive role models at school, at home and in the mosque on how to do this, and be given advice on how to live a life confident in their faith within and accepting of wider society.”

The school is organising a conference on 23 February 2016 to which local schools will be invited, with a public session in the evening for adults, where guest speakers including Professor Mona Siddique, who appears on Radio 4 Thought for the Day, will speak on these important issues.

The whole piece offers an interesting look at this topical issue, and is available to read on the Sunday Times website here.

Philip Britton