Government launches anti-radical website to stop kids fleeing to Isis

Bethnal Green Academy

Bethnal Green Academy - Credit: Archant

Moves to protect children from radicalism are being started with a new government website giving advice to parents and teachers on preventing extremism, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is announcing later today.

Launch at Bethnal Green Academy

Launch at Bethnal Green Academy - Credit: Archant

It is part of a drive to safeguard against the “spell of twisted ideologies” and is being launched at Bethnal Green Academy, the east London school where four pupils aged 15 and 16 fled to Syria to become Isis brides.

The Educate Against Hate website, which offers parents, teachers and schools advice to protect pupils from extremism, draws on resources and guidance designed by the government and charities such as the NSPCC and Childnet.

The move comes the day after the Prime Minister announced a £20 million fund for English language tuition to help Muslim women integrate into the community.

The Education Secretary, who is to speak at the launch at Bethnal Green at noon today, is also announcing more Ofsted investigations into unregistered, illegal independent schools, following the closure of three establishments in Birmingham before Christmas.

February 2015... three Bethnal Green girls at Gatwick heading for Syria

February 2015... three Bethnal Green girls at Gatwick heading for Syria - Credit: Archant

It follows Ofsted inspections of schools in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham last year.

“We are determined to keep children safe in and out of school,” Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said.

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“Today’s announcement of resources and tougher powers to protect young, impressionable minds from radical views will send a clear message to extremists that our children are ‘firmly out of your reach’.

She added: “Our tougher stand against illegal schools will help prevent children falling under the grasp of extremists.

Parents of the three schoolgirls in 2015 appealling for them to return

Parents of the three schoolgirls in 2015 appealling for them to return - Credit: MPS

“We will help prevent future incidents of young, promising children falling under the spell of twisted ideologies.”

It is almost a year since three girls from Bethnal Green Academy aged 15 and 16 vanished from home during the Spring half-term. They got through security at Gatwick and caught a flight to Turkey, where they slipped across the Syrian border to join Isis.

Home Office Security Minister John Hayes said: “We have seen tragically the devastating impact radicalisation can have on families and communities.

“Terrorists have targeted our young people with their poisonous propaganda with terrible consequences.”

Launch at Bethnal Green Academy

Launch at Bethnal Green Academy - Credit: Archant

Schools play a vital role in shielding pupils from the dangers of radicalisation, he added, as part of “the pastoral care that teachers take seriously”.

The three girls vanished last February to join a fourth pupil from the school who had disappeared the previous December and later surfaced in Syria.

The episode led to a furious condemnation in Parliament levelled against the Metropolitan Police with the Commissioner grilled at a Select Commons Committee.

Bethnal Green Academy’s Principal Mark Keary said this week: “Educators have a crucial role to play in protecting children from the threat of radical views. We will continue to draw on our experiences to help find solutions to protect and keep our children safe from harm.”

The NSPCC is being contacted daily by worried parents and children themselves on issues including radicalisation and dangers associated with extremism, its Chief executive Peter Wanless has revealed.

He said: “Spotting the signs of abuse has never been more important if we are to help protect children from exploitation, gang-related activity or other hate crimes.

“We must help equip young people with a resilience and confidence in understanding and judging the risks associated with growing up, while ensuring adults identify tell-tale signs of exploitation.”

Schools must protect children from harmful online influences, the government announced last month. The risk of radicalisation was recognised following concerns that children attempting to travel to Syria were able to access material about Daesh/Isis on school computers.

Whitehall issued advice last July to all schools as part of the 2015 Counter-Terrorism & Security Act, which legally requires schools, local authorities, prisons, police and health organisations to take steps to prevent people being drawn into terrorism.

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