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Anti-terror experts give presentation to students at school - here's what they said

Balanced approach targets ISIS, Al-Qaeda and far-right extremism

Armed police at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig(Image: PA)

STUDENTS at schools across Kirklees are being given the knowledge to combat terror and online radicalisation via workshops that show them how to identify extremist propaganda.

Recent events, not least the murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox last year and the attack on Manchester Arena in May, give added weight to the Prevent campaign, with anti-terror experts saying a balanced approach is working with youngsters during a particularly critical period in the UK’s history.

But they are keen to stress that whilst the initiative is reactive, it is also vigorously proactive and pre-dates recent atrocities.

Year 10 pupils at Castle Hall Academy in Mirfield were the latest of more than 3,500 people to participate in the scheme, which teaching staff categorise as “alternative curriculum” activity.

Castle Hall Academy, Mirfield.(Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

During a 90-minute session they discussed terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and were guided through problems surrounding safe use of social media, the rise of fake news and propaganda, and issues of trust. They were urged to think critically and question the information they receive online.

Engagement officers Aysha Ayub and Soriya Jabeen held multiple sessions for almost 90 pupils in which the key issues were engagement and the safeguarding of young people.

It meant tackling some unsavoury subject matter and getting to grips with the collective notion of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Britain First, National Action and other extremist groups.

Prevent hosted 30 projects in 2016, with schools and other education establishments forming only a proportion of its visits. It also focused on faith establishments, including churches and mosques, and community groups.

“Ours is a balanced approach,” said Kirklees Prevent co-ordinator Lee Hamilton.

“The murder of Jo Cox makes it real in terms of far-right extremism for us. Thankfully a group like National Action has no footprint in Kirklees.

Brendan Cox has said her murder "took the heart" out of the family but they have not been broken by the tragedy, as he prepares to mark the anniversary of the MP's death.(Image: PA)

“Prevent looks at all forms of extremism, from the far-right to ISIS. We offer a counter narrative: a local community response to propaganda, whether from groups like ISIS or the far-right.

“We offer IT courses on internet security for parents to counter things like online grooming or the sharing of far-right extremism. People think there is a need for this. They are volunteering in their communities. That is a massive success.”

Castle Hall principal Andy Pugh said the Prevent programme was part of the wider school delivery and began in Year 7 covering community cohesion, e-safety, gang culture and hate crime. Training has also been extended to staff and governors.

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Nine out of ten of our students seem to respond very positively and maturely,” he added.
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