A paper, Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention, published today by the Institute of Race Relations supports the NUT’s call for a more rational debate on the Prevent duty in schools.
In order to encourage an informed and rational debate on the new duty placed on schools to prevent children being drawn in to terrorism, the IRR has tested the duty against key articles in the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention (COROC).
Our analysis is based on around fifteen cases of concern already reported in the media or to professional bodies. These cases raise issues under COROC, Articles 2, 8, 30 (non-discrimination), Articles 3, 19 (best interests of the child, protection of welfare, protection from physical or mental violence), Articles 13-15 (freedom of thought, expression and association), Article 29 (right to education), Articles 5, 18 (parental and community rights).
Schools have a responsibility to keep children safe. The IRR shares the anxieties of parents, schools and all those concerned with children’s welfare when faced with reports of British schoolchildren and their families leaving Britain to join Isis in Syria. But this cannot allow us to sideline other concerns voiced by professionals working with young people, that the new Prevent duty imposed on schools has:
- created fear in children and parents
- stifled free expression
- harmed children’s healthy development
- fuelled discrimination against Muslim children and their communities.
In the climate of heightened media interest following the terrorist attacks in Paris, teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to voice reservations. Self-censorship is in no one’s interests.
IRR Director Liz Fekete commented: ‘Discussion on the effectiveness of the Prevent duty, of its proportionality and its unintended consequences, should be welcomed by all those concerned about security, and concerned about children.’
IRR Vice-Chair, Frances Webber, a prominent retired human rights lawyer and author of the paper, said: ‘It is vitally important that governments, when trying to protect children in one area, do not create systems that undermine their rights in another. This can happen when measures are put into place without careful thought … This analysis shows that the government has not sufficiently considered the potential lasting damage to children’s welfare and development that this new duty may have.’
Notes to Editors
 Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention (pdf file, 539kb), an analysis by the Institute of Race Relations, has been circulated to the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, the Children’s Commissioners for England, Scotland and Wales and the Department for Education.
 The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTS) section 26 for the first time imposed on specified authorities including local authorities, schools, nurseries and social services departments a duty to ‘have due regard in the exercise of their functions to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’.