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“Prevent duty”: empirical reflections on the challenges of addressing far-right extremism within secondary schools and colleges in the UK

Discussions on PolicyPolicy recommendationsPreventionRegions

Journal Abstract

Critical Studies on Terrorism

Forming part of its wider counter-terrorism apparatus, the United Kingdom’s “Prevent duty” imposes a legal requirement on various sectors to show “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. Since its introduction in 2015, the duty has been subject to increasing empirical research, with a particular focus upon the education sector. There has been, however, a distinct lack of scholarly works that specifically explore the issue of far-right extremism within this context, reflected in the often-reluctant policy development in this area. This article directly addresses this gap in research by drawing upon the qualitative experiences of 39 respondents with responsibility for the implementation of the duty within various schools and colleges across Sussex. Thus, through an empirical exploration of the challenges and complexities attached to its enactment, this article is one of the first to offer insights into educators’ negotiations of the duty in relation to far-right extremism. Within the data, three themes were particularly dominant: the normalisation and mainstreaming of far-right narratives; the associated challenges with the implementation of Prevent duty on the ground within classrooms; and considerations around the effective enactment of the duty. The findings demonstrate that addressing far-right extremism within schools and colleges is predictably problematic and closely reflects developments in wider society. It is also argued here that although addressing far-right extremism needs urgent attention, there should be a concerted effort to avoid the same oversights experienced with previous attempts at Prevent-related counter-terrorism.

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