Background to the Prevent duty
Statutory guidance - what has changed?
The Prevent duty
Extremism, terrorism and Prevent
Making a referral
Complying with the Prevent duty
Capabilities - understanding risk
Capabilities - managing risk
Capabilities - sharing information
Reducing permissive environments
Monitoring and assurance

While NASUWT continues to express concerns about the Prevent strategy, it is important that you understand how the Prevent duty may impact you and the school or college within which you work.

This guidance explains the legal background to Prevent, the duties it creates for staff and how concerns about the safety and wellbeing of learners can best be addressed.

If you have concerns about arrangements in your school or college for meeting the Prevent duty, contact NASUWT for further help and advice.

Background to the Prevent duty

The UK’s overarching counter-terrorism and anti-extremism strategy (CONTEST) is comprised of four key elements:

  • Pursue: detect and investigate threats to disrupt terrorist activity and prevent terrorist attacks.

  • Prevent: challenge extremist ideas to stop people from becoming terrorists or from supporting terrorism.

  • Protect: strengthen the UK’s protection against a terrorist attack.

  • Prepare: mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack when it cannot be prevented.

The Prevent element of CONTEST is most relevant to schools and colleges.

CONTEST establishes three core Prevent objectives. These are to:

  • respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism;

  • intervene early to support people susceptible to radicalisation; and

  • enable people who have already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate.

Statutory guidance - what has changed?

In 2021, the Government commissioned an independent review of Prevent. The review was undertaken by Sir William Shawcross.

The Independent Review of Prevent’s Report, published in February 2023, made 34 recommendations. The statutory guidance has been updated to reflect the steps that the Government has taken in response to the report.

There are no new legal requirements or responsibilities placed on schools and colleges. However, the statutory guidance has been updated and there is now a single document for all education settings. The main changes are:

  • The first objective of Prevent is to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism. The guidance says that the ideological component of terrorism is what sets it apart from other acts of serious violence.

  • The guidance clarifies that it only applies to non-violent extremism where it can reasonably be linked to terrorism or could draw people into terrorism.

  • There is a new theme - reducing permissive environments - which is intended to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism. In the case of schools, the guidance references the existing requirement of building resilience through the curriculum. It also refers to having effective IT and visiting speaker policies in place to reduce exposure to radicalising influences.

  • Schools and education settings should determine the appropriate staff for training, how they should be trained and the frequency of the training. Training should be proportionate to the risk of terrorism and extremism in the local area.

  • While the risk and threat picture is broader than in 2015, the guidance states that the primary concern is with Islamist terrorism.

  • There is a recommendation that schools and education settings consider whether their risk assessments accurately reflect and take account of local risk and threat and whether they are proportionate based on the size and type of provision.

  • The guidance clarifies that sharing information on Prevent should be treated the same as wider safeguarding. It also references the roll-out of the National Referral Form.

The Prevent duty

Specified authorities, [1] which includes schools and colleges, have a duty under Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’

The statutory guidance sets out how they should fulfil this duty. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 2)

The focus of the duty is on proportionality, risk and consistency and the statutory guidance states that actions should be proportionate to the risk of terrorism and radicalisation in the local area, sector or institution.

The statutory guidance says that specified education settings should understand the requirements as part of their wider safeguarding and welfare responsibilities. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 141)

NASUWT comment

The reference to understanding the Prevent requirements as part of safeguarding and welfare is helpful because it highlights that the primary focus should be on the welfare and safety of learners. Viewing Prevent responsibilities in this way should help ensure that responses are proportionate and appropriate.

Extremism, terrorism and Prevent

Prevent deals with all kinds of terrorist threats, but the statutory guidance states that its primary purpose is to tackle the ideological causes of terrorism. It states that the ideological component of terrorism is what sets it apart from other acts of serious violence. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 22)

The statutory guidance identifies the primary threat in the UK as coming from Islamist terrorism and explains this as the threat or use of violence as a means to establish a strict interpretation of an Islamic society. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 23)

The statutory guidance also identifies extreme right-wing terrorism as a threat with those using terrorist violence to further their ideology. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 24)

The statutory guidance says that Prevent also tackles other ideologies that may pose a terrorist threat, but that left-wing, anarchist and single-issue terrorism are not currently present on any scale in the UK. (Statutory guidance, paragraphs 22-25)

NASUWT comment

Prevent is focused on terrorism, including support for terrorism, rather than on forms of non-violent extremism that are not terror-related. However, the statutory guidance notes the complexity of determining what is and is not terror-related.

For instance, it refers to conspiracy theories acting as gateways to radicalised thinking and violence and to acts of individual violence drawing on different ideologies and so the need to assess the motivation behind an individual’s violence in order to judge whether the violence constitutes an act of terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraphs 26 and 27)

Therefore, schools and colleges need to be alert to all forms of extremism as they could fall within the scope of Prevent. This is also important for ensuring that the school or college is meeting its responsibilities in relation to learner and staff safety and wellbeing under equalities legislation, including the public sector equality duty (PSED) and responsibilities for promoting community cohesion.

We think it would be helpful to frame a school’s or college’s activities to address the risks of radicalisation and terrorism within broader work relating to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as safeguarding.

For example, it will be important to ensure that Muslim learners and staff are not subject to greater scrutiny because they are Muslim. Schools and colleges need to ensure that they tackle all forms of prejudice and hatred.


The statutory guidance defines radicalisation as ‘the process of a person legitimising support for or the use of terrorist violence’.

It says that most people who commit terrorism do so of their own agency and dedication to an ideological cause. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 35)

The statutory guidance says that radicalisation is a personal and individual process and that this will look different from person to person. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 70)

NASUWT comment

We have concerns about the consequences of Prevent paying particular attention to Islamist terrorism. The explanation of radicalisation as a personal and individual process that looks different from person to person increases the risk that Muslim learners and staff will be subject to greater scrutiny and differential treatment.

Therefore, it is crucial that all staff are trained and supported to understand and fulfil their responsibilities in relation to equalities legislation, including the PSED.

The PSED requires schools and colleges to be proactive in eliminating unlawful discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who have a protected characteristic and those who don’t share that characteristic.

Making a referral

The statutory guidance says that, when deciding whether they should make a referral to Prevent, front-line professionals should consider whether they believe the person may be on a pathway that could lead to terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 40)

There is an expectation that staff should raise concerns about individual children and young people directly with appropriate external agencies if they believe that their concerns have not been addressed appropriately by their school or college.

This applies even if the member of staff has followed the school’s or college’s internal safeguarding procedures. (Keeping Children Safe in Education (England) and Keeping Learners Safe (Wales)).

Complying with the Prevent duty

The statutory guidance groups the requirements, expectations and recommendations for activity around three themes:

  • leadership and partnerships;

  • capabilities; and

  • reducing permissive environments.


There should be a designated person in a leadership position who is responsible for overseeing Prevent delivery. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 151) In most schools, this is likely to be the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL).

The statutory guidance says that leadership is demonstrated by making sure that staff have access to training resources and guidance so that they understand the risk of radicalisation that results in terrorism; through building and promoting capabilities to deal with radicalisation concerns; and by promoting the importance of Prevent and the role that staff play in countering terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 64)

NASUWT comment

These requirements indicate the importance of Prevent being addressed by senior leaders and of adopting a holistic approach which recognises the links with things such as school or college ethos and culture, curriculum development, staff training and professional development, and community engagement, as well as responsibilities for equality and safeguarding.


Specified authorities are required to work in partnership with relevant organisations. In the case of schools and colleges, this includes co-operating with local authority-led Channel panels when a referral is made and engaging with other partners such as the police and local authority Prevent leads when needed. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 153 and 154)

Capabilities - understanding risk

Training and induction

The statutory guidance says that all relevant staff should have training to help them prevent learners from being radicalised into terrorism and to be aware of what action to take in response to the setting’s internal Prevent referral arrangements. (Statutory guidance, paragraphs 156 and 157)

It is for the school or setting to determine who the appropriate members of staff are and how frequently the training should occur. However, the statutory guidance says that will include those who interact most frequently with learners, those who are responsible for overseeing adherence with the Prevent duty, and those who manage external speakers and events. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 158) This appears to provide a clear expectation that all teachers will receive training.

The statutory guidance says that the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or Prevent lead should receive more in-depth training. This should include training on extremist and terrorist ideologies, how to make referrals and how to work with Channel panels. The statutory guidance recommends that the training is updated at least every two years. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 159)

Settings are required to consider the appropriateness and reliability of training resources. The guidance says that the local authority safeguarding team may provide advice on training. It also references government quality-assured resources available on the Educate Against Hate website.

NASUWT comment

It is important that staff are given time for training within the working day.

We recommend that training addresses equality and diversity responsibilities and matters, as well as safeguarding responsibilities.

Capabilities - managing risk

Risk assessment

The statutory guidance says that education settings should have robust safeguarding policies in place to ensure that those at risk of radicalisation are identified and appropriate support is provided. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 161) This should be part of the setting’s existing safeguarding policy and risk assessment arrangements. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 163)

Policies should be proportionate and based on an understanding of the threat and risk in the local area, the phase of education and the size and type of the setting. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 162)

Settings should perform a risk assessment which assesses the risk of learners or staff being radicalised into terrorism, including online. If risks are identified, they should then develop an action plan to mitigate the risks. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 162)

The statutory guidance stresses the need to ensure that policies and risk assessments comply with other responsibilities and requirements, including requirements under the Equality Act 2010 and in relation to data protection legislation. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 164)

The statutory guidance references other relevant guidance:

Capabilities - sharing information

The statutory guidance stresses the importance of schools and colleges referring to the requirements set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education (England) and Keeping Learners Safe (Wales) and of the approach to Prevent forming part of these arrangements. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 171)

Settings should have a clear policy on their approach for submitting a Prevent referral, including the use of the Prevent national referral form. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 169)

The statutory guidance states that practitioners must comply with the requirements of data protection legislation. Where it is not possible to rely on a person’s consent for sharing their information, there must be a lawful basis for doing so. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 170)

NASUWT comment

We have produced guidance on the GDPR and Digital Technologies. This guidance will also be useful to teachers and leaders wanting to understand their responsibilities in relation to the data protection and sharing information.

Reducing permissive environments

Education settings should have measures in place to prevent their facilities being exploited by radicalisers. This includes seeking to ensure that event spaces and IT equipment are not being used to facilitate the spread of extremist narratives which encourage people to participate in or support terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 175)

The statutory guidance says that the Prevent duty should not prevent discussion of sensitive topics, including, where appropriate, terrorism and extremist ideas that are part of terrorist ideology.

The guidance says that education settings should be spaces where people can understand and discuss sensitive topics and learn how to challenge the ideas. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 176)

The guidance stresses the need for settings to encourage learners to respect other people, with particular regard to the Equality Act 2010. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 177)

The statutory guidance also stresses the need for schools, colleges and other specified authorities to ensure due diligence in relation to the awarding of Prevent funding or contracts. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 179)

Building resilience through the curriculum

The statutory guidance references the requirement on schools and FE settings to enable learners to develop the knowledge, skills and values that will prepare them for life in modern Britain. The guidance states that in England, this requires them to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 180)

The statutory guidance says that education settings can provide a safe space for debating controversial issues and for helping learners to understand how they can influence and participate in the decision-making. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 181).

It also says that there are opportunities for schools to explore relevant topics in subjects such as Citizenship and Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE). References is made to Unicef’s Rights Respecting Schools programme as a means for establishing a positive ethos that respects difference and builds resilience. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 182)

The statutory guidance refers to the political impartiality duty on schools in England and says that they should ensure a balanced presentation of political issues. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 184)

NASUWT comment

The reference in the statutory guidance to education settings being spaces where people can discuss and understand sensitive topics and learn how to challenge ideas, including those relating to extremism and terrorism is important. Equally important is the reference to settings complying with the Equality Act 2010 and encouraging learners to respect other people.

We suggest that discussion and learning that addresses issues such as extremism, including extremism that supports terrorism, forms part of wider work relating to equality and human rights. We have established a framework for Anti-racism and Decolonising the Curriculum that schools and colleges may find helpful in supporting this work. The framework provides links to other resources which may be useful when addressing extremism and other sensitive issues.

IT policies

The statutory guidance says that policies relating to the appropriate use of IT equipment and networks should contain specific reference to the Prevent duty and that filters should be considered as part of their overall strategy to prevent people becoming involved in or supporting terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 186)

External speakers and events

The statutory guidance says that education settings should consider the extent to which any external speakers and events held on the premises pose a risk of radicalising learners into terrorism. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 189)

The statutory guidance states that education settings should consider whether the views expressed or likely to be expressed by a particular speaker constitute views that are likely to encourage people into participating in or supporting terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups.

The statutory guidance recommends that education settings undertake their own due diligence to understand the risks of a particular speaker. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 191)

The statutory guidance says that schools’ safeguarding policies should set out clear protocols for ensuring that speakers are suitable and appropriately supervised. (Statutory guidance, paragraph 192)

NASUWT comment

When establishing a speaker policy and protocol, schools and colleges should consider:

  • how responsibilities in relation to safeguarding are reflected through speaker policies and protocols;

  • how speaker policies and protocols will address equality matters and help to promote community cohesion;

  • the school’s or college’s ethos and values and how these are reflected through speaker policies and protocols.

Schools and colleges should consider the selection of speakers, as well as the content of speeches and presentations. It will be appropriate to look at a speaker’s reputation and the reputation of the organisation they represent. It will be important to address the use of language and ensure that what is said does not stir up hatred or incite violence.

Schools and colleges will need to ensure that their policies and protocols do not discriminate against people from particular backgrounds. For instance, policies and protocols that result in Muslims being less likely to be selected as speakers are likely to be unlawful.

Monitoring and assurance

Ofsted and Estyn inspections of schools and education settings include an evaluation of the setting’s arrangements for safeguarding. Inspectors will evaluate the extent to which the setting has a culture of safeguarding, including protecting learners from radicalisation and extremism. (Statutory guidance, paragraphs 200-207)

[1] Paragraphs 146 (the schools and registered childcare settings) and 147 (the further education institutions) of the statutory guidance set out the specified settings and who within those settings is legally responsible for complying with the Prevent duty.


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