Primary school children face increasing racial profiling, according to a new report.
The study by the Claystone think tank exposes the impact of the government’s Prevent programme.
Muslim children as young as nine are under scrutiny that “clearly points to a pattern of ethnic profiling in
counter-radicalisation policy in British schools”.
The report Building Distrust: Religious Profiling in Primary Schools looked at a programme in Waltham Forest in east London.
The Building Resilience through Integration and Trust (BRIT) programme claimed to be concerned only with “community cohesion”.
A council representative told schools that BRIT offered a “rare opportunity to receive free, intensive and wraparound support for some of our most vulnerable families.”
Local parents and teachers raised questions about its real purpose. Yet the council maintained it had nothing to do with Prevent or anti-terrorism.
Email exchanges published following Freedom of Information requests show different. One email is from a council official responsible for the project encouraging schools to join it.
It includes the passage, “Given recent national events, such as the Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham schools, the Rotherham CSE case and international crisis in Syria, Gaza and Iraq, we hope you feel this is both pertinent and timely.”
As the report points out this list of events “seen as relevant to radicalisation only relate to ‘Muslim problems’.”
It did not mention the racist English Defence League, which has a history of activity in the borough.
The programme included a survey supposedly to measure its impact. It was to be anonymous but was an underhand method of identifying children perceived to be on the “pathway” to terrorism.
It asked children to “name your closest friends” and “name the religious faith (if any) of each of your closest friends”.
Follow-up emails from BRIT officials name specific children and propose investigations of their views and family situations on the basis of their responses.
Questions included asking if the pupil agreed with statements such as, “If a student were making fun of my religion, I would try and make him/her stop—even if it required hurting them.”
Many statements referred to religious belief, such as, “The only acceptable religion is my religion.”
That report concluded that there is no evidence “to link perceived psychological vulnerabilities to a risk of becoming a terrorist, indeed, issues surrounding identity are prevalent among children and teenagers in general”.
It criticised Prevent for seeking “to build a picture that British Muslim children are both the ‘suspect would-be terrorist’ and in need of being ‘saved’.”