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CT Awards Q&A: PSHE Association

In what ways can schools help incorporate teaching and advice on extremism and radicalisation as a school-wide approach?

A 2011 evidence review by the Department for Education recommends a ‘multi-modal approach’ to tackling extremism, where schools work in tandem with youth services and families.

PSHE education is only one part of a wider school strategy on extremism and radicalisation. The most effective schools have a school-wide ethos that promotes inclusion and a sense of belonging to a community. Schools can help young people to develop a sense of purpose and direction which may have a protective effect.

A whole-school approach includes the development of policies (e.g. on anti-bullying, equalities and safeguarding) which promote diversity and address how a school keeps pupils safe, alongside appropriate pastoral support that encourages social inclusion and reduces vulnerability to radicalisation.

There are a number of subject areas that provide relevant curriculum opportunities including Citizenship and Religious Education, so a joined up approach to curriculum planning is beneficial.

How can other skills, often taught through PSHE, such as flexible thinking, effective questioning and separating fact from fiction, help equip students to better identify and prevent being radicalised?

It is important that young people have an awareness of potential radicalisation-related risks and related facts, but knowledge alone is insufficient to safeguard young people. As recommended by UNESCO in its publication ‘A teacher’s guide on the prevention of violent extremism (2016)’, learning must include development of the interpersonal skills to manage disagreements constructively, critical thinking skills to navigate misinformation and assess the validity of extremist beliefs, and the skills to constructively engage in civic society.

Misinformation and conspiracy theories can now spread more easily than ever before. For example, a recent Europol report highlighted increased cybercriminal activity and deliberate spreading of disinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic .

It is therefore important that young people are taught to critically analyse the information they come across – both online and in person. The ability to assess reliability – both of a source and related reporting – can help protect and safeguard young people.

How is the PSHE Association helping educational institutions teach young people how to recognise and protect themselves from radicalisation?

As part of our involvement in the Building a Stronger Britain Together Home Office initiative on challenging extremism and radicalisation, the PSHE Association delivered a range of training days for PSHE education leads and related staff members – aimed at both primary and secondary phases.

The training updated teachers on the current prevention education landscape and focused on how to embed learning on inclusion and extremism within a broader PSHE education curriculum.

An independent Ipsos MORI evaluation found that this work ’led to significantly increased levels of confidence and improved skills in covering extremism-related topics’.

A key contributory factor to the success of the training was the signposting of quality-assured resources. The PSHE Association, following detailed research and collation of pupil voice, wrote a set of lesson materials aimed at both primary and secondary phases.

Project funding also allowed materials from other organisations to go through the rigorous quality assurance process to provide additional high quality resources to help teachers address this potentially sensitive topic area safely.

Further details of these and related resources can be found on their website at www.pshe-association.org.uk or get in touch at info@pshe-association.org.uk

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