Birmingham City Council: working with schools

Birmingham City Council and its partners have concentrated on mainstreaming Prevent across all relevant service areas and, in particular, in schools and has appointed a schools resilience adviser to help them address the Prevent agenda. This case study forms part of our counter extremism resource.

Birmingham has appointed a schools resilience adviser to help them address the Prevent agenda. The post-holder is working with over 400 schools making sure they have the support they need and are able to access the right training. The role also involves providing more tailored support to schools that need it, including regular one-to-one contact where necessary.

Birmingham City Council and its partners have concentrated on mainstreaming Prevent across all relevant service areas and, in particular, in schools.

The programme is characterised by effective partnership working and local delivery which is designed to be proportionate and targeted towards areas of most vulnerability and need while also ensuring city-wide coverage.

The city was at the centre of the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot last year and is determined to ensure delivery enables frontline services to access updated information and receive appropriate support and guidance.

Schools Resilience Adviser, Razia Butt, was appointed in October 2014 – although this post was already in the pipeline by the time the ‘Trojan Horse’ controversy came to light – and since then she has been helping ensure the 440 schools in the city have the help they need.

Ms Butt says: “We approach it very much from an equality perspective, incorporating it with other safeguarding issues such as child sexual exploitation. You cannot just talk about Prevent in isolation, that wouldn’t work.

“You need to approach it differently. My job is about building resilience, embedding it within safeguarding – that is good for all aspects of school life.”

The support offered to schools is tailored depending on what each one needs.

There is a universal offer which involves making sure that all schools know about the training, workshops and Home Office resources that are available.

This has helped ensure good up-take of training programmes. By October 2015 71 per cent of schools had accessed WRAP training, while 22 per cent had taken advantage of preventing violent extremism (PVE) training, which is aimed at the designated safeguarding leads and this is now being mainstreamed so that schools retain the resource in-house.

To complement this, the council runs regular safeguarding network meetings for the designated leads to keep them abreast of developments, while three safeguarding conferences are being held each year.

An equalities and cohesion toolkit has also been created to help schools plan assemblies and lessons, while training is also being made available to the staff appointed as the single point of contact to ensure that they comply with equalities legislation.

Councils’ role in preventing extremism 5 What is more, Butt has been co-ordinating the Unicef Rights Respecting Schools Award, a UK programme that rewards schools for incorporating and promoting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into everyday school life. So far nearly 100 schools have taken part.

For those schools that need more tailored support there is a programme of specialist support available. This involves one-on-one work normally over a visit or two.

But for schools which have more deep-rooted difficulties, including those criticised by Ofsted, there is even more targeted support available. This can involve intensive support, normally incorporating regular contact over a number of weeks.

Each case is different, but I will work with the school and help bring in other partners where needed. This can involve getting an agency to come in to do some equalities work or a provider to offer some dedicated training on safeguarding.

Schools Resilience Adviser, Razia Butt

Councillor Shafique Shah, the Cabinet Member for Inclusion and Community Safety, who has portfolio responsibility for Prevent, is pleased with how things are going:

In Birmingham we have strengthened our governance structures to ensure all partners are working together in line with the new Prevent duty. And while we are pleased with the progress being made, we are aware that there are still many challenges – but I remain confident our approach is heading in the right direction. 

But the work with schools forms part of Birmingham’s wider approach to Prevent. The city has been at the forefront of the radicalisation agenda since 2007 and is second only to London in terms of risk.

The team has also worked closely with other partners, including local youth workers, substance misuse workers and mental health professionals.

The work has involved offering training on Prevent and looking at how those referred to the Channel Panel are supported by these teams. Already evidence is emerging that this is having an impact.

For example, recently two individuals that the substance misuse team were working with admitted that they had booked to go to Syria but had decided against going after getting support and having their views challenged by the team. It is achievements like that which show the approach in Birmingham is heading in the right direction.