Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 12:19 UK

What is the extremism 'toolkit'?

The guidelines aim to strengthen community cohesion

The "toolkit" being made available to schools in England to prevent pupils becoming drawn to extremist ideals amounts to a set of practical guidelines and ideas.

From making sure pupils are unable to access extremist websites to hosting relevant theatre productions, the guidance highlights ways in which schools can steer pupils away from extremism.

The government has called the 47-page advice notice "a toolkit to help schools contribute to the prevention of violent extremism".

It is designed for school leaders and is intended as guidance in that does not impose any new requirements on schools.

The aim is to ensure pupils' wellbeing and to aid community cohesion in an age when cultural differences can lead to tensions.

"Education can play a powerful role in encouraging young people to challenge ideas, think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions," the document says.

Extremist graffiti

The toolkit outlines various issues and behaviour that teachers should watch out for.

These include graffiti symbols, writing or artwork promoting extremist messages or images, pupils accessing extremist material online or parental reports of changes in behaviour.

Addressing controversial issues will also help to challenge misinformed views
Government advice to schools

Teachers should also be aware of pupils voicing opinions drawn from extremist ideologies and narratives and the use of extremist or "hate" terms to exclude others or incite violence.

Police reports of issues affecting pupils in other schools should also be noted.

The guidance recommends dealing with issues in school where appropriate, for example removing graffiti, but in other cases external agencies, like the police, may be informed.

The toolkit also alerts school leaders to the dangers of external groups seeking to use school premises or facilities to further their cause.

"Schools should be aware of this risk and ensure that the school or local authority lettings policy sets out values of the school and makes clear that any group whose aims are counter to those values may not hire the facility."

Schools are urged to encourage pupils to become "critical users" of media messages and to prevent staff and pupils from accessing illegal or inappropriate material through school ICT systems.

Drama productions

The guidelines say theatre and drama productions can help raise sensitive issues and prompt debate.

The toolkit cites a debate held in Burnley for Year 10 pupils (14 and 15-year-olds), where young people discussed the motion "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist", saying this provided an opportunity to share views and beliefs.

"Effectively addressing controversial issues will also help to challenge misinformed views and perceptions amongst pupils, challenge commonly held "myths" and build understanding and appreciation about others," it says.

Everyday lessons can also provide opportunities for debate, particularly religious education, citizenship and history classes.

"Opportunities to challenge myths and to discuss issues related to violent extremism may also arise in other lessons and in informal discussions in school with pupils or staff."

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