World-leading criminologist advises schools to address terrorism as part of curriculum
24 April 2013
Professor Mike Levi
Professor Mike Levi was today featured in the South Wales Echo, commenting on why the school curriculum in Wales should encourage teachers to discuss with pupils the reasons why people become extremists.
Mike Levi is a professor in Criminology at the School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) with an international reputation for his research in the globalisation and impact of financial crime and fraud, organised crime, corruption and cyber-crime. He chairs the Crime, Security and Justice research theme at SOCSI, he is an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences and a member of numerous international advisory committees.
The full article can be read below:
Wales' schools curriculum must address terrorism, warns expert
Education officials must ensure the school curriculum fully addresses reasons why people become extremists, a counter-terrorism expert has said.
Professor Michael Levi said in addition to educating teachers to spot the early signs of radicalisation, teachers need to engage in an “active debate on legitimacy” on what shapes the beliefs of extremists.
His comments come as a “restricted” document revealed counter-terrorism specialists are to be sent into Welsh schools “identified as having increased risks” of pupils being targeted by radicals.
Prof Levi said while the measures detailed in the Wales Contest Plan – a document dealing with the specific terror threats to Wales – were appropriate, the country should not assume that the task of tackling the issues of radicalisation and extremism would be easy.
The Cardiff University professor said: “We have to think about what attracts people into blowing things or people up – they are essentially announcing, ‘We are here, now pay attention to our grievances’.
“We have to ask how much attention do we give to debates of legitimacy in society and in our schools? How does this feature in our curriculum?
“There needs to be an active discussion, as well as providing teachers with the knowledge of what to look out for, we need to have an active debate about legitimacy.”
Prof Levi’s comments also come as Wales’ most senior counter-terrorism officer said specialists are engaging with youngsters in schools in order to protect them from the dangers of turning to terrorism.
Assistant Chief Constable Matt Jukes, head of the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (Wectu), said: “At the heart of this there’s a question of safeguarding children.
“If young people are being exploited, and I’m not suggesting that is the case, if they put themselves on a path off some of these ideals, not only will they take lives, they are at risk themselves and we are concerned about saving lives.”
ACC Jukes also said there needed to be a healthy debate about religion and global affairs in Welsh schools.
“The really strong thing about the Wales Contest Plan is that ... it’s about communities being supportive of each other, about identifying where the legitimate expression of views which are radical in a political or ideological sense stretch into ideas which are violent. And that can take place in a range of settings – in the workplace, in a school or in a university.
“It would be unhealthy if we couldn’t have a debate about religion, about global affairs in schools and universities.”
Yet while ACC Jukes encouraged a debate, he warned teachers should always be vigilant.
“When that discussion becomes the promotion of violent ideas or ideology we are all responsible and indeed there is a legal obligation for professionals to raise their concerns,” he added.
Mal Davies, former head of Willows High School in Cardiff and an NUT branch secretary, said while he did not believe there was an issue of Welsh youngsters being targeted by extremists he understood the concerns.
He said: “The NUT would take a very strong line in supporting staff working to tackle approaches made to youngsters. But in my 17 years as head of Willows I did not ever experience incidents of that kind at the school gates or anywhere else, nor have I in my 16 years as an NUT representative heard that this has happened.
“But I do accept that schools which are perhaps more multi-cultural than Willows might be more exposed to that kind of approach on the grounds that there is a more fluid population.”
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “Clearly schools have an important role to play in helping our children and young people understand the reasons why a small minority of people are drawn into becoming violent extremists.
“This is why the Welsh Government produced the ‘Respect and Resilience’ guidance and good practice document for schools to help to support schools in their role in developing and supporting strategic approaches to promoting and maintaining community cohesion and preventing violent extremism.
“We have also supported a range of initiatives to encourage and help build confidence in schools and amongst teacher to address contentious issues, particularly those sometimes linked with violent extremism. These include the REsilience project aimed at RE teachers and the Getting on Together Projects (1 and 2) which are aimed at 11-19 year olds and intended to complement Personal social education.”