Understand and identify the risk of radicalization in your school environment


To protect children, young people and adult learners vulnerable to radicalisation, protection officers have been appointed (DSL) will need to adopt a risk-based approach.

The DSL must understand the risk of radicalization in their region and educational environment. This risk varies widely and can change quickly, but nowhere is without risk.

To understand the risks or threats in your area, contact your:

  • Prevent coordinator or Prevent pedagogical manager in your municipality (if applicable)
  • HEFE regional Prevent coordinator (if you have one)
  • local police team
  • local authority or child safeguarding partnership
  • local authority or police Prevent partners (to access your local counter-terrorism profile)

The threat of terrorism

The Terrorism Act 2006 defines ‘terrorism’ as any action or threat to influence the government or intimidate the public. Its purpose is to advance a political, religious or ideological cause.

In summary, terrorism is an action that:

  • endangers or causes serious harm to a person or persons
  • causes serious damage to property, or seriously interferes with or disrupts an electronic system
  • is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public

The duty to prevent provides a framework for specified authorities to respond to the changing nature of the threat in the UK. The Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST) 2018 states that the main threat to the UK comes from Daesh or Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism, although far-right terrorism is a growing threat.

Certain groups and organizations are banned. This means that they are prohibited under the counter-terrorism measures introduced under the Terrorism Act 2000 (eg Daesh and National Action).

The Interior Ministry has published a list of banned terrorist groups or organizations.

The threat of extremism

The Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST) 2018 defines “extremism” as vocal or active opposition to core British values ​​of:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty
  • mutual respect
  • tolerance of people of different religions and beliefs

Extremism also includes calls for the death of members of the armed forces, whether in this country or abroad. Some groups and organizations that promote extremist ideologies are not banned terrorist groups or organizations.

These groups support narratives of division or hatred towards others, but cannot promote extreme violence. For example, they may hold opinions that fuel distrust or hatred of people of different faiths or undermine the principles of democracy.

We have published resources to help explain:

Mixed, unclear or unstable cases

Some children, young people and adult learners may appear to be engaged in, or to have adopted, a mixed, unclear or unstable ideology that supports extreme violence.

Mixed, unclear, or unstable cases may include people who:

  • show interest in several extremist ideologies at the same time
  • move from one ideology to another over time
  • target a “perceived other” of some sort (perhaps based on gender or some other protected characteristic), but does not otherwise identify with a particular terrorist ideology or cause – e.g. involuntary celibates (incels) who direct their anger primarily at women
  • are obsessed with massacre, or extreme or mass violence, without specifically targeting a particular group – for example, high school shootings
  • may be susceptible to being drawn into terrorism out of a sense of duty or a desire to belong, rather than out of deep convictions

Online radicalization

Children, young people and adult learners are at risk of accessing inappropriate and harmful extremist content online. This could include uploading or sharing terrorist material, which could be a criminal act.

The internet and social media make it easy to spread divisive and hateful narratives to millions of people. Extremist and terrorist groups and organizations use social media (e.g. apps, forums, blogs, chat rooms) to identify and target vulnerable people.

You don’t have to be an online expert to understand when a child, youth or adult learner is at risk of harm. You should handle harmful online behavior the same way you handle offline activity.

Concerns that a child or young person is being radicalized online

Any child, adolescent or adult learner who uses the Internet may be at risk of online abuse.

Educational institutions need to be aware of the risks and talk to children, young people and adult learners about online safety.

If you are concerned that a child, young person or adult learner is vulnerable to radicalization online, you should follow your usual safeguard procedures.

Radicalization is like grooming. Whether it happens online or offline, you should treat it the same.

How children, young people and adult learners become vulnerable to radicalization

There is no single way to identify whether a child, young person or adult learner is likely to be susceptible to an extremist ideology or vulnerable to radicalisation.

The process of radicalization is different for each individual. It can take place over a long period of time, or it can be very quick.

Children, youth and adult learners who are vulnerable to preparation for sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation or county lines may also be vulnerable to radicalization. Factors can include things like being a victim or witness to a crime, abuse or bullying, or having personal or emotional difficulties.

Negative childhood experiences, combined with specific influences from family and peers or online connections, can make a person more vulnerable to radicalization.

Extremist influences may include, but are not limited to:

  • family members with direct contact or involvement with extremist or terrorist groups
  • school or community staff who promote an extremist ideology
  • peers promoting an extremist ideology or sharing extremist material
  • accessing or exposing to extremist material online via social media or the internet – for example, propaganda, including images, videos, blogs and fake news
  • exposure to extremist, terrorist or other violent activity abroad
  • access or exposure to extremist leaflets, magazines or stickers
  • exposure to extremist groups organizing marches, demonstrations or stands

Risk factors

Push and pull factors can put a child, young person or adult learner at risk of extremism or radicalisation. There are often several risk factors present which, taken together, may cause concern.

Push Factors

Push factors can include how a child, youth or adult learner feels:

  • isolated
  • they don’t belong
  • they have no purpose
  • low self-esteem
  • their aspirations are not fulfilled
  • anger or frustration
  • a sense of injustice
  • confused about life or the world
  • real or perceived personal grievances

Pull Factors

Pull factors can include an extremist or terrorist group, organization or individual:

  • provide a sense of community and a support network
  • promise of fulfillment or excitement
  • make the child, youth or adult learner feel special and part of a larger mission
  • offering a very narrow and manipulated version of an identity that often supports stereotypical gender norms
  • offer inaccurate or false responses to grievances
  • encourage conspiracy theories
  • promote an “us versus them” mentality
  • blame specific communities for grievances
  • encourage the use of hatred and violent actions to obtain justice
  • encourage ideas of supremacy

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