In May 2015, we were contacted by parents in Waltham Forest who were concerned about a ‘questionnaire‘ that was being circulated to young people in schools.
We were aware of the following questionnaires being circulated in Buxton School in Leytonstone (Waltham Forest) and the questionnaires seemed to indicate that they related to Prevent work. The project was funded through the EU and through a call for proposals entitled, “Radicalisation Leading to Extremism.” The Prevent Steering Board of Waltham Forest oversaw the project and the project was called BRIT (Building Resilience through Integration and Trust). The organisation that ran it is called Family Action UK.
Today, the project has once again hit the headlines. A Freedom of Information request by a parent on the project has led to the release of the names and identifying details of 7 young people.
The seven pupils who were identified through material released by the local authority were students at the Greenleaf Primary School. Parent Haras Ahmed who submitted the Freedom of Information request on the Brit project, was quoted by the Evening Standard as saying:
“It’s been a disaster from start to finish. Firstly we’re told it’s a social cohesion policy and then after various questioning they accept it’s a de-radicalisation process and then to release the names of the children in such an insensitive way.”
“Any parent in any school – whether they are of a Muslim faith or non-Muslim or no faith – would be appalled by their children’s data, such sensitive data, are released to a member of the public.”
When we initially raised the project on our web-site in May 2015 through legitimate concerns which were raised by parents, the local authority suggested that the ‘Brit – Building Resilience through Integration and Trust‘ project was a ‘cohesion’ project. That was simply false and was a ruse. It was as simple as that.
It is now clear that this project was an extremism sift project in order to look for and identify young children who may have been vulnerable to extremism.
The position that Faith Matters has consistently taken is that Prevent is a sad but necessary arm to tackling radicalisation and extremism. Given the nature of the work, its sensitivity and its ability to affect the future of young people, it is essential that Prevent work is robustly scrutinised. This also ensures the development of good practice, whilst safeguarding the rights of young people and diverting them away from influences which could affect their lives in the future.
This also means that where parents and carers raise legitimate issues, (as parents did on this project to Faith Matters), they should not be dismissed as ‘anti-Prevent’, ‘leftie-liberals’ or ‘conspiracists’. In fact, by couching the Brit project as ‘cohesion’ the local authority has fuelled further conspiracy theories and handled this whole affair atrociously.
Finally, we believe that honesty and transparency are key to undertaking Prevent work. This means that projects may take longer to implement and some sections of communities may not engage. That is part and parcel of the work, though attempting to organise a smoke and mirrors campaign to couch an extremism project as cohesion, does the work an injustice and assumes that members of the public will swallow untruths. This has to stop and if anything, the Brit project places the local authority in Waltham Forest in the spotlight around future projects. At the very least, parents deserve an apology related to this whole debacle.