FE Week: Home Office data show Prevent referrals in higher education are at “record high” – why?

prevent referrals in higher education uk

While Home Office Prevent data on referrals from further education (FE) are rare when the hundreds of thousands of students taught by colleges and training providers are considered, it does show that referrals are on the rise. investigates why.

According to recent Home Office data, there were 141 FE referrals in 2018-19, a figure that remained stable until 2022-23 when they hit 215. And yet, of those 215, just 10 per cent (22) were escalated to a full “Channel case”, and a de-radicalisation programme. In the previous two years, 14 per cent and 15 per cent of FE referrals were taken forward to Channel.

Most FE Prevent referrals over the past five years were made for extreme right-wing ideology, followed by people with a vulnerability but no ideology detected, those with “no risk, vulnerability or ideology present” and then, in fourth, “Islamist” extremism.

Layla Aitlhadj from Prevent Watch, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports people who have been referred, said: “Prevent … is being used to securitise innocent children and young adults.”

She cites the case of 17-year-old ‘Munir’, his secondary school Prevent referral was used by his sixth-form college to send him home for not demonstrating “inclusive values”.

“Neither student had done nor intended anything unlawful, yet their future prospects were hindered,” Aitlhadj says.

Harrow says the case studies put forward in reports by Prevent Watch and Amnesty International “surprised” her: “The sharing of safeguarding information has to be appropriate, and it has to be on a need-to-know basis.”

Playfair added: “Are there some bad design examples of overreaction, misunderstanding, knee-jerk reactions, etc? Yes,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take that responsibility seriously.”

Aitlhadj said “many” of the individuals Prevent Watch supports report a “desire to seek support from traditional social and community services but have lost trust in these crucial relationships for a healthy society”.

Read the full investigation on FE Week.


Prevent Watch challenges claims of a ‘rise in extremism’ in higher education

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