The recruitment of young people to extremist causes

How the Internet is being used to recruit impressionable young people and why schools are at the frontline of tackling the issue

Extremism EducationOver the summer holidays we have read reports of minors being taken into care because authorities have evidence of parents radicalising their children. Even Boris Johnson has been quoted in the Guardian as stating that radicalisation is considered child abuse and should be tackled head on. The surge in children being taken into care because of this reason is being blamed on the power of the Internet as a communication and networking tool, as well as the ease of access of social media. If recent cases are examples on this matter then it seems this maybe the case.

The latest reports suggest up to 550 young Britons have made the journey to Syria to join the frontline. We are also familiar with the story of five 15 year old girls from Bethnal Green who gave up everything to become Muslim brides for IS fighters. It's hard to believe that bright, intelligent, westernised girls want to leave loving families to possibly lead a life of suppression and hardship in a foreign land, far away from what they know and understand. The details are hazy about how this has come to be, but it's been suggested that there are certain websites openly trying to recruit young Muslim girls to be ‘IS wives’. Impressionable girls fantasise about the pin up style pictures of the ‘fighters’ and fall in love with the false notion of them striving for territory and justice. Reports have emerged from one girl who managed to escape the regime, that she was abused and kept as a prisoner in one room.

This has brought about a kangaroo court of accusations and counter accusations from both sides of the issue, with parents blaming the government for not doing enough and in turn the government batting it back, insisting parents need to be more vigilant and more acute to their teenagers changing behaviour and values. Blaming aside, teachers now see themselves on the frontline themselves, in the prevention of extremism amongst their pupils. Many of us feel the pressure from the government to make a difference but feeling, understandably, out of our depths. Are we able to begin to tackle this deeply entrenched issue? And do we feel totally confident driving certain messages in a politically correct environment where emotions are running high?

After operation Trojan horse was first introduced by Ofsted, schools have been doing their best with their PSHE curriculums by educating pupils about life in modern Britain in the belief that this will give students a greater sense of identity and patriotism. Ofsted seeking evidence that it's elements are being embedded cross curricular. Politically the government was keen to seen to be tackling the issue head on.

But because PSHE is still not compulsory and in some schools doesn't hold the gravitas needed to truly make an impact, it makes the practical task of teaching and challenging radicalisation very hard. Personally I was seeking confirmation from a political party during this election campaign to commit to making PSHE compulsory, I've been very disappointed and feel that it's a wishy washy contradictory message from our potential leaders. I cannot see any advantages of continuing with optional PSHE if they want measurable change. Making PSHP compulsory is the only way to ensure that issues such as these are given the time, teaching and focus it demands. Only last month Estelle Morris has highlighted the issue in the Guardian newspaper calling for exactly this.

As PSHE lead in my school, I have done some research about how my school can introduce the topic of extremism, teach pupils about the issue, challenge stereotypes and try to deter extremist views; I can recommend the 'prevent for schools' website, it is excellent. Set up by a team of organisations committed to the issue of stamping out extremism amongst young people, they promote different methods of teaching and learning activities such as theatre group visits and lesson plans. It's also very helpful in explaining safeguarding guidelines and procedures should you ever feel concerned about a particular pupil.

Perhaps a more unusual method, Humza Arshad is a young Muslim man with his own You Tube channel dedicated to deterring his audience away from extremism. He has over 200,000 followers and the Met have recruited him to talk in schools about his fight. He has the ability to reach young Muslims on their level and speak with a mixture of street credibility and authority- which seems to be a winning approach.

Looking forward, I suspect teachers will continue to be used as first base in the fight against radicalisation. If IS continue their high profile campaign it's inevitable that there will be ramifications for British born Muslims. With this in mind, I hope the government offers more support to the PSHE curriculum and even go as far to have regional task forces that have the ability to support and provide the clear and direct message needed to make a difference.

COMING SOON: We are currently developing resources to help tackle this issue in schools, with information for pupils, parents and teachers. TRS members will recieve email updates about these resources as they become available.

Written by Vicki Dan on September 09, 2015 10:17

Brand new online PSHE training modules

PSHE TrainingThe brand new online training modules available from Teaching Resource Support offer teachers a more flexible approach to introducing students to the topics of SRE, finance, drugs and alcohol.

The online training modules have been developed by ASTs and PSHE experts and modified into online modules by experienced educational author, Steve Martin.

Each of the courses can be delivered via web link for individual completion or presented in the classroom as a group activity. The bespoke distribution tool allows you to track and monitor your training exercises.

There are currently 4 modules available to Premium Plus members which can be accessed via your TRS Dashboard:

Sex and Relationships
Young people are increasingly turning to the Internet and social media for sources of information about a huge range of topics. However, this can have damaging effects when it is used for information about SRE.

This SRE module helps to inform students about the potential for finding false and misleading information from these sources.

Managing Your Money

This training module is designed to help young people appreciate the concept of ‘money’. We explore the issues of paying for things – that everything has a price, and we need to accumulate enough money to obtain these items and budget accordingly.

Drugs Awareness

Having the right information to make the right choices.

In this KS4 training module, we think about illegal substance abuse and learn about the law in relation to drugs as well as sources of further advice both inside and outside school.

Alcohol Awareness

Alcohol can affect people of any age, but research indicates that the human brain continues to develop into a person's early twenties, and exposure of the developing brain to alcohol may have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities and may increase the possibility of alcohol addiction.

This course will build awareness of the harms of under-age drinking and the damage it can do to our bodies as well as on society.

These training modules are available to Premium Plus members - join now!

Written by Teaching Resources Support on February 06, 2015 14:05

Delivering the PSHE Curriculum – what’s your approach?

LessonI recently read an article that reported on a new study carried out by the Centre Forum Mental Health Commission that suggested that happiness classes should become part of the school curriculum. The article highlighted some very valid and interesting issues such as factors that cause young people to develop a mental health disorder and the fact that, as a consequence, some turn to cannabis, alcohol or self-harm.

In another piece, there was a call for the inclusion of issues regarding sexual abuse and violence into the school curriculum based on the idea that the number of cases of sexual abuse and rape being recorded would reduce if young people were made aware and understood the issues.

Nowadays, possibly as a consequence of ubiquitous nature of technology and the 24-hour news it offers, it would seem that a week doesn’t pass by without a politician, scientist or even a celebrity, calling for awareness of a particular issue to be added to an already crammed-full PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education – also referred to as PSE, PSHCE and PSHEE) curriculum to ensure it is delivered to young people in a classroom.

The question that I found myself reflecting on is how the ever-evolving PSHE curriculum can be delivered to students, in a manner that ensures good pedagogical practice.

In my role as a supply teacher, I get to visit numerous schools that employ different approaches and innovative practices that allow this to happen and it is worth sharing these ideas as PSHE departments in other schools may wish to try them out themselves.

‘Stop-the-clock’ days

Periodically, in one school I attend, they have ‘Stop-the-Clock’ days. This is when for whole or even just half a day, the normal subject timetable is abandoned and the tutor groups within different year groups focus on different, age-related PSHE subject areas. So, year 8’s may look at healthy-living including lessons on healthy-eating and the dangers of smoking. Year 10’s may study aspects of sexual health such as relationships, STI’s and contraception.

The cross-curricula approach

A number of schools in which I have taught employ a cross-curricula approach to the delivery of the PSHE subject matter where certain aspects are explicitly integrated into specific subject area. This could be where sexual health and contraception is naturally combined with the delivery of reproduction within the science curriculum. Relationships could be explored within the drama curriculum or the subject of drug taking could be considered when focusing on fictional writing or poetry.

Form time

Another option, other than dedicated PSHE lessons, is to deliver PSHE content during form time. As these tend to be relatively short, then the activities may need to be stretched over a number of periods or constricted to short discussions etc. As a consequence of limited time, this approach does have the benefit of holding the attention of those students who might have a tendency to go off-task in longer PSHE lessons. The disadvantage however, is that form teachers may not have the expertise in delivering certain subject areas - as an ICT teacher, I confess to finding the delivery of content on contraception to my form of lively year 8’s very uncomfortable and challenging.

Do you have any other innovative suggestions regarding the delivery of the PSHE curriculum? Does your school or department take a different approach? Please comment below and share your ideas so that other teachers and departmental head may learn and develop their practice.

Written by Steve Gresty on July 15, 2014 08:13

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