Prevention of extremist behaviour / radicalisation

What is this?

The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, works to counter the threat from terrorism, via its CONTEST strategy.  Schools have a vital role to play in protecting pupils from the risks of extremism and radicalisation, a role which is underpinned by the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” (1 July, 2015).

Prevent work with children and with schools is an important part of the strategy. Schools are important not because there is significant evidence to suggest children are being radicalised – there is not – but because they can play a vital role in preparing young people to challenge extremism and the ideology of terrorism and effectively rebut those who are apologists for it. Schools can help to protect children from extremist views in the same ways that they help to safeguard children from drugs, gang violence or alcohol.

North Yorkshire is a safe place in which to live and work and incidents of violent crime are low.  However there are vulnerable sites within the county including scientific research laboratories, historical and religious sites, military sites and crowded places that could be targeted for attack by extremists.  Nationally the largest threat to security is from international terrorist organisations such as ISIS. In North Yorkshire threats of extremism may also include, far right extremist groups, animal rights or environmental groups. There is also the risk of young people travelling to Syria.

What can we do about it?

Research suggests that young people who feel alienated or isolated by ‘push’ factors are more vulnerable to being influenced by the ‘pull’ of a single narrative and therefore more susceptible to radicalisation.   Universal provision around the prevention of violent extremism is embedded within effective mainstream provision.   Work to engage children and young people; develop their social and emotional skills; educate them in citizenship, Religious Education, peaceful protest, global learning and e-safety; recognise and support their individual needs; give them a voice; develop community cohesion and so on, already features within the provision of our primary and secondary schools and within other settings where children and young people come together.  Effective universal provision should make a young person less susceptible to radicalisation. 

All staff should be made aware of the potential indicators that a child, young person or their family may be becoming involved in extremism and know how and where to refer any concernsThe process is: NOTICE, CHECK, SHARE.

Early intervention is crucial

Some vulnerability factors that may contribute to extremism

Some indicators of becoming involved in extremism

  • Identity crisis –being distanced from their cultural / religious heritage
  • Personal crisis –experiencing family tensions; a sense of isolation; and low self-esteem; dissociated from their existing friendship group and become involved with a different group of friends; may be searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging;
  • Personal circumstances – migration; local community tensions; and events affecting the student / pupil’s country or region of origin may contribute to a sense of grievance;
  • Unmet aspirations –perceptions of injustice; a feeling of failure; rejection of civic life;
  • Experiences of criminality – which may include involvement with criminal groups, imprisonment, and poor resettlement / reintegration;
  • Special Educational Need –difficulties with social interaction, empathy with others, understanding the consequences of their actions and awareness of the motivations of others.
  • Becoming a loner
  • Obsessed by the internet/social networking sites– and secretive about what they are doing
  • Un-cooperative/disengaged
  • Abusive/aggressive/extremist views/comments/ threats/language
  • Fascination/fixation with weapons (eg drawing guns)/chemicals/explosives/ extremist activity/events
  • Carrying weapons
  • Changes in relationships/ withdrawal from family
  • Changes in friendship groups (including adult relationships)/desire to be part of a gang.
  • Change in behaviour or appearance due to new influences
  • Seeking to recruit / ‘groom’ others to an extremist ideology
  • Possession of violent extremist literature
  • Absence patterns/ emergent travel plans e.g. Syria

Based on Birmingham Safeguarding Board: Model policy

However, this list is not exhaustive, nor does it mean that all young people experiencing the above are at risk of radicalisation for the purposes of violent extremism. There is no single profile of a violent extremist.  Every case will need to be considered on an individual basis.


Responding to concerns

Schools and settings should continue to follow usual safeguarding procedures and rapid multi-agency responses as tools to support their assessment of vulnerability and the appropriate sharing of information with local partners.  Schools are encouraged to work with local police on awareness of community issues and tensions which may also be contributory factors.  For secondary schools, your local Behaviour Collaborative is the forum for raising any emerging concerns and for reporting extremist behaviour to the Local Authority (extremist behaviour is a standing item on every collaborative agenda). Primary schools should raise emerging concerns with their School Adviser or Behaviour and Attendance Adviser.  Please note however, that routine safeguarding procedures and protocols should always take precedence and be adhered to.

Questions to ask yourself if you are concerned about a young person?

  • Who is the young person involved with?
  • Who are their peers?
  • Have there been changes in the young person’s behaviour or attitude?
  • Are there other issues that could be the reason behind the changes?
  • What could the young person be involved in?
  • Is this a child protection issue?
  • Who is being affected who may require a safeguarding response? I.e. the concern may relate to adults as well as young people.

If you feel that a young person may be at risk of being involved in radicalisation or extremism...

  • Follow usual safeguarding procedures
  • Inform the Headteacher (or Manager if other setting).
  • Inform the police via your ‘Safer Neighbourhood’ contact, who will then advise and support further referral as appropriate
  • Inform your Behaviour & Attendance Adviser who will also advise and support.


Where else can we go for help?

For more information or support please contact Education and Skills


Guidance/ Resources/Training:

Key guidance documents:

Working with individuals vulnerable to extremism in education settings- practice guidance (North Yorkshire Community Safety Partnership 2018)

NYCSP Working with individuals vulnerable to extremism in education settings – Appendix 3 Prevent Self-Assessment word template 2018

One Minute Guide Prevent : Extremism and Radicalisation (North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Partnership 2020)


Resources: (further resources available on NYES)

For teaching resources and guidance documents:

Training: Free on-line training

Staff and governor training for your school or cluster from North Yorkshire: book through NYES

Action Counters Terrorism - ACT For Youth
Act for Youth Campaign - Digital Toolkit    Image 1    Image 2


Useful Downloads:

Revised DfE Prevent Duty Guidance 2015 - Updated Information on Guidance for Specified Authorities

Teaching resources to promote tolerance and understanding of different faiths and cultures

The Prevent duty - Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers - June 15

Advice on Hosting Speakers on School Premises

Prevent - Teaching and Learning Resource

Prevention of Violent Extremist Behaviour Toolkit


Related pages


Child Protection and Safeguarding -Schools

Child Protection and Safeguarding -Early Years

Online Safety

Hate Incidents

Equalities and Diversity

School Emergency Response (including Invacuation/Lockdown)