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HomeUK NewsExtremist views present in schools due to online content, teachers say

Extremist views present in schools due to online content, teachers say

A study suggests that teachers lack the resources needed to “stamp out [the] root causes” of extremist views among children in classrooms in England

Staff in England say that they are concerned about the increase in pupils who are looking at hateful content online and developing dangerous, extremist views that could be linked to racism, homophobia and conspiracy theories.

Extremism is being allowed to flourish as a result of a lack of staff support and enough space on the curriculum in order to challenge these views, according to academics from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education.

Their report, that was published days before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, suggested schools’ efforts to build resilience to forms of extremism in young people are “highly varied”, and within some cases, their approach to the issue was seen as “tokenistic”.

Researchers, who had spoken to 96 teachers in English schools as part of the study that was commissioned by education charity Since 9/11, found that almost all had encountered “hateful extremism” in the form of racist views with in the classroom.

The majority also said that they have heard pupils express far-right extremist views within their classrooms, as well as “extremist views about women” or Islamophobia.

This comes after campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford has said that child food poverty in the UK is getting “devastatingly” worse. Rashford, the England forward, aged 23, has called upon people to write to their MP in a bid to end a “child hunger pandemic”.

These findings come after the boss of MI5 had revealed that agents are investigating teenagers as young as 13 years old linked to extreme right-wing terrorism.

In July, director-general Ken McCallum said that the presence of teenagers is a “rising trend in MI5’s counter-terrorist case work” and is becoming increasingly seen in extreme right-wing investigations.

Meanwhile, the report suggests that the conspiracy theories and online disinformation “is an emerging area that needs consideration”.

Nearly nine in 10 teachers have said that they have heard conspiracy theories being discussed by their students, including the theory that the American businessman Bill Gates “controls people via microchips in COVID vaccines”.

They claim that kids have been increasingly exposed to these ideas online and that the brunt of the problem has been “exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdowns”.

But the study has also found that many teachers do not confront students out of fear that they will offend, “especially on matters related to race”.

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From the UCL Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research, Dr Becky Taylor said: “This report shows that some schools fail to move beyond surface-level explorations of violence, extremism and radicalisation; however, it is without doubt that schools can play an important role.”

She added: “Education policies must consider the fact that some schools may need more help than others to build on what they already have in place.

“Engaging well with their local communities and ensuring that schools and teachers are supported and appropriately resourced can help young people to problematise ‘hateful extremism’.”

The study calls for school teachers to be given better training to enable pupils to reject, and respond to, such dangerous ideologies.

The report concludes: “Much anti-extremism work is well-meaning but is stymied by overcrowded curricula, a lack of resources, a desire to perform policy for Ofsted, and a mandate to detect and report vulnerability to radicalisation rather than necessarily stamp out its root causes.”

This comes after England’s school exam system needs an overhaul in order to lower the mental burdens that they place upon teenagers striving for the “holy grail” of results, this is according to the new leader of the Girls’ School Association.

Kamal Hanif, who is a trustee of Since 9/11 and the executive principal of Waverley Education Foundation in Birmingham, has called the research “a wake-up call”.

He said: “We urgently need to equip schools with the tools to teach pupils how to reject extremist views. Dangerous ideologies must never be swept under the carpet.”

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has said: “Schools have an important role to play in educating young people about the false premises and dangers posed by extremist ideologies, but they cannot do this alone and more support is needed.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “The new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum requires secondary age pupils to be aware of laws relating to terrorism and hate crime, and the Educate Against Hate website features over 150 free resources to help pupils, teachers and parents tackle radicalisation in all its forms.

“We continue to look at what further support we can provide to schools, and will shortly launch further resources specifically focused on harmful online content.”

Eve Cooper
Eve Cooper
I've been writing articles and stories for as long as I can remember and in the past few years I've had the fortune of turning that love & passion for writing into my job :)

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