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Policy & Law

The draft guidance has been prepared jointly by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Association of Colleges (AoC). It has been issued following a series of earlier discussions with key stakeholders. See ‘related links’ for the guidance. Principals and chief executives are asked to consult with their management, including governing bodies, and their staff, learner representative forums and students/learners. The consultation runs to 6 May.

The guidance sets out five objectives for providers:

  • to promote and reinforce shared values
  • to break down segregation among student/learner communities
  • to ensure student /learner safety and colleges free from bullying and harassment
  • to provide support for students/learners who may be at risk
  • to ensure that students/learners and staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities in preventing extremism.

It also provides practical advice on how to take these objectives forward and asks what further support the sector may need on these issues. It urges  providers and staff to be more vigilant and take preventative action to tackle violent extremism, in particular in relation to terrorism influenced by Al-Qa’ida.  

Briefing in full

Introduction

Many colleges recognise that successful educational outcomes are closely linked to creating a climate of mutual respect and support. They understand their position within the local area as a key gateway for young people and adults to go through, with many returning to positions within the community following training which puts considerable responsibility on colleges to be a key “place shaper” for their areas.

The document sets out:

  • five key objectives for providers in promoting a cohesive society and tackling extremism and practical steps to achieve these
  • differentiated approaches to allow for the different circumstances faced by colleges
  • some of the main resources available to support this work
  • how this work relates to the inspection process and to the new Framework for Excellence (more information below under ‘taking the work forward’)
  • some of the issues for work-based training
  • annexes on information on the legislative framework.

Five key objectives for providers

These are set out in the Overview above. The guidance also poses questions for each of these objectives.

Promoting shared values and open debate

  • Are you working with the learner representative forum and others to create and publicise opportunities for students/learners to voice their opinions and engage actively in debate?
  • Do you have regular dialogue with learner representative forums, multi-faith student support staff and college chaplains and staff student/ learner liaison officers?

Reviewing and communicating policies and procedures

  • Have you reviewed your existing policies and procedures to take account of recent relevant legislation, available guidance and good practice?
  • Do your policies specifically address the need to balance the interests of particular cultural or faith/belief groups with those of the wider college community?
  • Are these policies clearly communicated to staff and students/learners?
  • Do you have a clear and easily accessible Equal Opportunities Policy and clear procedures for dealing with complaints and incidents?
  • Do you have an institutional standard of acceptable behaviour on intimidation, bullying, harassment, discrimination, racial hatred? 

Training and support

  • Are your staff appropriately trained to deal with concerns from students and learners and are staff and students/learners clearly signposted to sources of help?
  • Are the multi-faith student/learner support services that are available in your college clearly publicised and easily accessible?
  • Are colleges and staff able to educate their students/learners about how violent extremist groups operate and recruit, and how the college and others can support anyone who feels targeted or vulnerable?

Policies on speakers, use of premises and distribution of literature

  • Do you have clearly set out policies on the use of external speakers?
  • Do you have recently reviewed and clearly set out policies on the use of college premises by outside bodies?
  • Do you have clear policies on acceptable use of college facilities including meeting rooms, internet, library books etc.?
  • Do you have ways to translate any publications or literature being held or distributed in the college into English?

Risk assessment

Three levels of risk are identified. 

Level 1: Universal – there needs to be a minimum set of activities that all colleges undertake to embrace community cohesion ideals, and to assess their vulnerability to threats to student/learner safety and from violent extremist groups.

Level 2: At Risk – colleges which identify specific risks need to take action to avoid these becoming incidents. In practice this is likely to include working with community partners, particularly the police and local faith leaders.

Level 3: Incident Management – colleges will already have plans for dealing with a variety of emergency situations and scenarios. This should include how the college staff will work with the relevant authorities to limit the damage to individuals and the wider community.

Resources to support action

The Quality and Improvement Agency (QIA) will be commissioned to bring together case studies of good practice and practical steps colleges can take. These will be based on some of the responses to the consultation. Some of the resources which are already available are described in consultation document and cover the following areas:

  • leadership and staff
  • students/learners
  • partnership working.

Taking the work forward

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is currently piloting the Framework for Excellence to provide a single, unified framework for assessing and reporting achievement in all key areas of performance. The Framework will take into account how colleges work on community cohesion and counter extremism.

Comment

In July 2007, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) published guidance for schools on their duty to promote community cohesion see ‘related briefings’ for information on this duty). In February 2008 the Government issued its response to the Report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion and this provides more information about the Government’s wider strategy to promote community cohesion (see ‘related briefings’).

This document now out for consultation has been prepared by DIUS and AoC and it sets out the role of providers of FE in promoting community cohesion. In addition, it focuses on how colleges and other providers need to take steps to counter extremism, in particular, terrorism influenced by Al-Qa’ida.

There is a strong emphasis on how providers can promote free debate and tolerance by encouraging discussion and on helping people manage disagreements.  It encourages providers to give staff and students opportunities to understand how extremist groups recruit and it expects providers to have procedures in place which address issues such as freedom of speech. Much practical advice is provided, including the importance of making students more aware of their rights and responsibilities. It also emphasises the need to work with partners such as police and local faith groups.

Colleges will need to consider how they will ensure their staff are trained in combating extremism and promoting community cohesion. The guidance also asks employers who offer vocational training and work placements to consider how they can be vigilant and also offer support. Views are asked for on this.

This is the first time that these issues have been widely debated in the FE sector and it will be important that colleges and others respond by identifying solutions that will work best in their particular circumstances.