TRAINING teachers to spot potential terrorists among their pupils will increase racism in Scotland, the country’s biggest teaching union has warned.
Prevent is a new government-ordered scheme which requires teachers to report extremist behaviour or radicalised beliefs to the authorities.
The programme is designed to stop vulnerable children on the pathway to becoming violent terrorists.
But the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has spoken out against the scheme – claiming it will increase racist incidents at schools and that it is rooted in Islamophobia.
Now the union is in the process of drawing up guidance for teachers on how to respond to the scheme, according to its education and equality officer, Jenny Kemp.
She said: “We think it creates a conducive context for racism.
“It will almost give permission to people who are minded towards racism a way to do so.”
Case studies and training materials provided to teachers – she said – also focus on black and ethnic minority individuals, and focus more on islamic extremism than far right extremism.
“We also have concern about the way it will affect the relationship of trust”, she went on, expressing concerns that it would ask teachers to “spy” on pupils.
She also said that early feedback from teachers was that the scheme is “heavy handed and disproportionate”.
She said in one case a student who wrote a critical essay on the situation in Syria was interviewed by police.
In another case the authorities were called in when a boy said he lived in a “terraced house” – after a teacher misheard it as a “terrorist house”.
The union boss spoke out after the UK parliament joint committee on human rights called for an independent review of the scheme – which was introduced in February.
Earlier this month figures revealed that around one third of referrals to anti-radicalisation programmes in 2015 were made through the education sector.
The president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) is now calling for programme bosses to evaluate its success in England and Wales – where it has been in force since 2015 – before it moves north of the border.
SSTA president Euan Duncan said: “I am not convinced that it is healthy to place this kind of onus on teachers.”
The new objections come in the wake of calls earlier this month from human rights group, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) for Prevent training to be cancelled.
They said the scheme is “discriminatory, undermines the relationship between educators and students and is more likely to foster terrorism than prevent it.”
A Scottish government spokesman said that the scheme would be handled differently to England and Wales.
He said: “The Scottish government’s approach is different to that of the UK government, as it ensures delivery reflects our communities and achieves a balanced and proportionate approach to safeguarding vulnerable individuals from radicalisation.
“This work is aligned to well-established protocols within schools, which maintain the safety and wellbeing of our young people.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that it has led to a rise in racist incidents or Islamophobia.”
Education Scotland say the resources provided to support Prevent are designed to make pupils “more open minded and empathetic towards each other.”