Extremist views flourishing in schools thanks to dangerous online content, teachers say | UK News

Extremist views flourishing in schools thanks to dangerous online content, teachers say | UK News

Teachers lack the resources needed to “stamp out [the] root causes” of extremist views among children in classrooms in England, a study suggests.

Staff say they are concerned about the increase in pupils looking at hateful content online and developing dangerous ideas linked to racism, homophobia and conspiracy theories.

Extremism is being allowed to flourish thanks to a lack of staff support and space on the curriculum to challenge these views, according to academics from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education.

Their report, published days before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, suggests schools’ efforts to build resilience to extremism in young people are “highly varied”, and in some cases, their approach to the issue is “tokenistic”.

Researchers, who spoke to 96 teachers in English schools as part of the study commissioned by education charity Since 9/11, found almost all had encountered “hateful extremism” in the form of racist views in the classroom.

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Kids targeted with graphic content online

The majority also said they have heard pupils express far-right extremist views in their classroom, as well as “extremist views about women” or Islamophobia.

The findings come after the boss of MI5 revealed that agents are investigating teenagers as young as 13 linked to extreme right-wing terrorism.

In July, director-general Ken McCallum said the presence of teenagers is a “rising trend in MI5’s counter-terrorist case work” and is becoming more so in extreme right-wing investigations.

Meanwhile, the report suggests that conspiracy theories and online disinformation “is an emerging area that needs consideration”.

Nearly nine in 10 teachers said they have heard conspiracy theories being discussed by students – including the theory that American businessman Bill Gates “controls people via microchips in COVID vaccines“.

They claim kids have been increasingly exposed to these ideas online and that the problem has been “exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdowns”.

But the study found that many teachers do not confront students out of fear they will offend, “especially on matters related to race”.

Dr Becky Taylor, from the UCL Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research, said: “This report shows that some schools fail to move beyond surface-level explorations of violence, extremism and radicalisation; however, it is without doubt that schools can play an important role.”

She added: “Education policies must consider the fact that some schools may need more help than others to build on what they already have in place.

“Engaging well with their local communities and ensuring that schools and teachers are supported and appropriately resourced can help young people to problematise ‘hateful extremism’.”

The study calls for teachers to be given better training to help pupils reject, and respond to, dangerous ideologies.

The report concludes: “Much anti-extremism work is well-meaning but is stymied by overcrowded curricula, a lack of resources, a desire to perform policy for Ofsted, and a mandate to detect and report vulnerability to radicalisation rather than necessarily stamp out its root causes.”

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Kamal Hanif, a trustee of Since 9/11 and executive principal of Waverley Education Foundation in Birmingham, called the research “a wake-up call”.

He said: “We urgently need to equip schools with the tools to teach pupils how to reject extremist views. Dangerous ideologies must never be swept under the carpet.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Schools have an important role to play in educating young people about the false premises and dangers posed by extremist ideologies, but they cannot do this alone and more support is needed.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum requires secondary age pupils to be aware of laws relating to terrorism and hate crime, and the Educate Against Hate website features over 150 free resources to help pupils, teachers and parents tackle radicalisation in all its forms.

“We continue to look at what further support we can provide to schools, and will shortly launch further resources specifically focused on harmful online content.”



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