Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Press release: Further education and skills providers falling short in protecting learners from risk of extremism

The report, ‘How well are further education and skills providers implementing the ‘Prevent’ duty?’, praises general further education colleges and sixth forms for making good progress in implementing the Prevent duty. However, it finds that a worrying number of providers, particularly independent learning providers, small providers and those working in isolation, are struggling to implement the duty.

The government’s Prevent strategy places a legal duty on further education providers to have ‘due regard’ to the risk of learners being drawn into terrorism. This includes preventing extremists from seeking to radicalise learners and supporting those learners perceived to be at risk of extremist influences. Ofsted has responsibility for monitoring how well the duty is being implemented.

Last year, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw commissioned inspectors to undertake a survey to establish how well providers are implementing the Prevent duty. The findings of today’s (12 July 2016) report are informed by visits to 37 further education and skills providers, as well as 46 full inspections or monitoring visits carried out between November 2015 and May 2016. Inspectors also spoke to hundreds of learners, managers, teachers and support staff, as well as provider-designated ‘Prevent’ officers, partners and governors.

Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) reported that too many providers see the Prevent duty as little more than a ‘tick-box exercise’ and do not regard it as an important part of their responsibilities towards learners. In some instances, inspectors saw no effort by providers to implement the requirements of the duty, leaving learners at risk.

Nearly half of providers lacked sufficient safeguards to keep learners safe online, with learners in some cases bypassing security settings to access websites selling firearms or promoting terrorist ideology. These included one isolated instance of a learner viewing a terrorist propaganda video in the provider’s learning resource centre.

Inspectors also found evidence that some providers were failing to undertake adequate background checks on external speakers coming onto campuses to speak to learners.

There is also too little effort put into partnership working, with several local authorities failing to support providers, who were unaware of the range of advice and guidance available to them.

Commenting on the findings, Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Further Education and Skills, Paul Joyce, said:

It is reassuring that over half of the providers visited for this survey were found to be making good progress in implementing the Prevent duty, and are ultimately keeping their learners and local communities safe. Leaders in the general further education and sixth form colleges we visited should be commended for the quick progress they have made in implementing this new responsibility.

However, it is concerning that in some colleges and providers the progress made in implementing the duty has been slow. It is worrying that inspectors saw examples of poor practice that I’ve no doubt would shock parents and learners alike.

I am calling on providers, local authorities and the government to take on board Ofsted’s recommendations. We need to work together to ensure that we keep learners safe and protect them from all forms of extremism.

Ofsted has made a series of recommendations to those responsible for implementing the Prevent strategy:

  • the government should make sure Prevent duty advice is offered consistently to providers and should better promote the guidance available to them

  • providers need to make sure appropriate policies and procedures are in place, and develop partnerships with other providers and local authorities to increase the sharing of intelligence

  • providers should also ensure staff receive appropriate training so they can identify and flag concerns

  • learners should have a good understanding of British values and the threats that radicalisation and extremism can pose

In the next academic year Ofsted will raise further its expectations on providers to implement all aspects of the Prevent duty and will continue to evaluate its impact on keeping learners safe.

Notes to editors

  1. The report, How well are further education and skills providers implementing the ‘Prevent’ duty?, is published online.
  2. Inspectors interviewed approximately 230 managers, 220 teachers and support staff, 79 provider-designated ‘Prevent’ officers, 425 learners, 63 partners and 52 governors.
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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