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'The Prevent Duty and Controversial Issues' - new guidance for schools

Post date: 
Mon, 07/12/2015 - 16:30


'The Prevent Duty and Controversial Issues: creating a curriculum response through Citizenship' is published today to support schools in developing their response to the Prevent Duty. This new guidance has been produced by the Expert Subject Advisory Group (ESAG) for Citizenship in association with ACT.

The guidance can be downloaded as full and summary versions for teachers, Heads, senior leaders and school governors.


The guidance aims to help schools:


  • consider how to respond to the Prevent Duty and be clear about the purpose of Citizenship and the role of the teacher in this context
  • develop an understanding of the pedagogical tools and approaches available to help them address Prevent as a controversial issue
  • feel more confident about planning teaching and learning such as to develop resilience and critical thinking, and that is appropriate in the context of their school and their pupils' diverse needs and backgrounds
  • be informed about what to do if they find a pupil is at risk of being drawn into terrorism or extremist behaviour.


Fundamental British Values forms part of the Prevent policy and schools need to think carefully about the child protection agenda and the educational agenda within their response. The DFE and Ofsted have identified Citizenship as playing an essential role in Prevent as the curriculum subject in which to tackle sensitive and controversial issues, develop resilience, critical thinking and knowledge and understanding of democracy and the rule of law.   The new guidance also includes:

  • a checklist of questions to help schools consider, plan and evaluate their provision
  • a comprehensive range of pedagogical approaches for teaching sensitive and controversial issues
  • a framework to help teachers know where to draw the line between what is acceptable and unacceptable when sensitive and controversial issues are discussed
  • a list of useful resources and teaching materials.

Dr Lee Jerome, Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University and member of the Expert Group and ACT said in a recent talk at the Bingham Institute for the Rule of Law,

"Constructing an educational response it is vital to look for approaches which emphasise ‘learning’ rather than simple moral instruction. If interpreted as an opportunity simply to tell children what is right and what is wrong and to drive home those messages, this agenda could be perceived as ‘knowledge of the powerful’ in which all the difficult answers have already been worked out and children’s thinking is effectively closed down. By contrast if teachers create opportunities for children to think seriously about the balance between freedom and security; about the nature of rights; and about the challenge of political violence and extremism, then teachers can build ‘powerful knowledge’, which students can use to make sense of the world around them, even as new events unfold.

This powerful knowledge can be understood as having three dimensions. The first dimension refers to knowledge per se about what is happening in the world, to ensure children understand what is happening and some of the causes and consequences. The second dimension refers to concepts which help to understand and order the world as a citizen, for example the rule of law, the nature of rights, and democracy. The third dimension to powerful knowledge refers to how citizens make claims and judgements that others should take seriously, for example, by engaging in moral reasoning, assessing situations against human rights standards, or applying rules of impartiality in judging the law. We must have faith that democracy is strengthened not by closing down debate but by helping young people to think about the challenge of extremism and terrorism deeply and critically, to develop their own coherent sense of that challenge, and to think through the implications for them and others."

For information on training in Prevent, SMSC, British Values and Citizenship see our events page

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