By Sue Manning, Managing Director

The Prevent Duty – the radicalisation of the ‘Bethnal Green Three’ – and could this happen again?? 

Back in Easter 2015, when the Prevent duty came to fruition, we were inundated with requests for training to bring Designated Staff up to speed with government requirements.

Ofsted announced that they would be ‘tolerant’ around procedures being in place until December 2015, but from January 2016, would expect all schools and early years setting to be fully compliant.

There was a huge variety of interpretations of the ‘British Values’ guidance, with some establishments believing that putting pictures of the Queen and including Union Jack bunting would suffice. We heard tales of using pictures of the Spice Girls, fish and chips and even Downton Abbey as examples! Eventually, there seemed to be an epiphany when there was a universal understanding of ‘Democracy, Respect & Tolerance, Individual Liberty and the Rule of Law’. The embedment of these values into everyday life in schools and nurseries across the country became evident with some amazing resources being produced and the ethos of the setting changing for the better.

What prompted such a change in our approach to working with children? Following the government’s publication of its last Counter Terrorism Strategy in 2011, we have taken comprehensive action to address risks both in the UK and abroad. With its help, the police and security services have foiled more Islamist plots since June 2013, with four extreme right wing terror plots in the past year alone. 

There had been growing concerns about young people and adults defecting to war zone areas in Syria and similar countries in order to ‘fight of the cause’. Roshonara Choudhry was a young British student and Islamist, and was the first al-Qaeda sympathiser to attempt an assassination in Britain. Roshonara stabbed British MP Stephen Timms on 14 May 2010 in his constituency surgery in an attempt to kill him. She was found guilty of attempted murder and jailed for life. 

Reyaad Khan (21) went to Syria in 2013. As a teenager, he was interested in politics and said he wanted to be “England’s first ever Asian Prime Minister”. He was joined by Ruhul Amin (26) who was a keen footballer and described as “having a big heart who would always stick up for a weaker kid”. These two young men were two of the British Islamic State jihadists who died in Syria, killed by a British RAF drone strike.

Probably the most highly publicised, were the three pupils from Bethnal Green Academy who were radicalised by a friend. 

In the half-term break of February 2015, three pupils at Bethnal Green Academy followed their friend in travelling to Syria to join ISIS. Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, aged between 15 and 16 at the time, had stolen passports from family members.

What happened to the Bethnal Green Three?

They took a Turkish Airlines flight from Gatwick to Istanbul before crossing into Syria – the same route taken by Sharmeena Begum three months earlier.

Sharmeena Begum (18)

This friend of the three girls went out to join ISIS, travelling to Syria in December 2014 after 18 months of tumult in her life. Her 33-year-old mother had died of lung cancer and her father, Mohammad Uddin, had remarried. It would appear that she was unhappy with her lot at home and sought a different life in Syria.

She married a Bosnian, who was also killed. It is alleged that she radicalised and recruited the three other younger girls from Bethnal Green Academy.

Kadiza Sultana reportedly married an American ISIS fighter with Somali heritage. 

He was killed a short time later in a Russian airstrike. She told her family she was growing disillusioned with life in Raqqa, but was scared to try to leave.

In August 2016, ITV reported that Kadiz’s family believed she had been killed, aged 17, in an Raqqa airstrike that May. 

Her family’s lawyer said: “The family are devastated. A number of sources have said that she has been killed & she has not been in contact with the family for several weeks. Over a year ago, she had been talking about leaving. There was a plan to get her out.” 

Shamima Begum said about Kadiza "Her house was bombed. Underground, there was secret stuff going on & a spy had figured out that something was going on and other people got killed as well. At first I was in denial. I thought if we died – well - we'd die together..."

Amira Abase married an 18-year-old Australian jihadist, Abdullah Elmir, in July 2016. Elmir, was described in Australian media as the “Ginger Jihadi”.


He was later reported by intelligence agencies to have been killed in coalition airstrikes.

Sharmeena Begum and Amira Abase, both widowed, have remained in Syria.  

Shamima Begum said of her friends’ choices to stay “I respect their decision, they were strong. They urged patience and endurance in the caliphate. They would be ashamed of me if they survived the bombing and battle - to learn that I had left. They made their choice as single women. For their husbands were already dead. It was their own choice as women to stay. They had decided to stay on in Baghuz, Isis’s last stronghold, where I last saw them.”

And finally, … the girl who hit the headlines recently - Shamima Begum herself married Yago Riedijk (27) a Dutch convert to Islam 10 days after arriving in the city in 2015. She then had her first child, a daughter called Sarayah. 
In January 2017, the family left Raqqa to live on the outskirts of the town of Mayadin. She had a son called Jerah before they moved again as ISIS was pushed back by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

She said Yago had later been accused of spying and was tortured in prison before being released.

Shamima revealed that her son died aged of an unknown illness and malnutrition aged 8 months. She tried to take him to an ISIS hospital but there were no drugs available and not enough medical staff.

Sarayah then grew sick and died aged twenty-one months. Heavily pregnant, she decided to flee to a refugee camp in north-east Syria, whilst her husband left her & surrendered to Syrian forces.

Shamima said that all she wanted to do is come home to the UK so her baby would have had access medical care. Her baby died & the UK stripped the 19-year-old of British citizenship in February. She is currently fighting the decision.

It seemed clear that all four girls were doomed as soon as it hit the news that they had left the UK, without their parents having had any suspicion they would take such action. 

Could this brainwashing of young people still happen now, or what can you identify takes place in your school to be both proactive,  and appropriately reactive, if facing a similar situation?


This has 4 strands – 1 being ‘PREVENT’ 
Prevent has the following OBJECTIVES…
  • Tackle the CAUSES of radicalisation and respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism (for Police)
  • Enable those who have already engaged in terrorism to disengage and rehabilitate (for Police)
  • Safeguard & support those most at risk of radicalisation through early intervention identify and offer support. (Education)
  • …have DUE REGARD TO THE NEED to prevent people (staff and students) from being drawn into terrorism’

All schools must have a Risk Assessment Action Plan
Who has ownership of our Risk Assessment Action Plan? Who has responsibility for reporting on its progress? Who has responsibility for completion of the plan? 

SLT must have ownership of the plan. 
SLT / DSL Leadership must ask themselves…
  • Do I understand how to manage the plan?
  • Do I understand the plan and issues mentioned?
  • Are any tasks set updated on completion?
  • Where are our weaknesses – how are we addressing them?
  • How readily accessible / available is it?
  • Is the document protected online?

Now is the time to review your procedures and update your Risk Assessment Action Plan to comply with CONTEST 3. We should always look at Prevent through a Safeguarding Lens - and COMMUNICATE THIS to staff as a safeguarding issue to give reassurance of how this is approached.

In conclusion…

2017 proved to be one of the worst years for terrorist attacks in the UK, with several horrific assaults on both London and Manchester. Theresa May commented, 

“These served as a stark reminder of the continued threat that terrorism poses, both to our people and to our way of life. Whether inspired by Islamist extremism, the far right, or the situation in Northern Ireland, the overarching goal of individual terrorists and the groups that support them is the same – to inflict harm, to inspire fear and, in so doing, look to undermine the very fabric of our society. They cannot and will not be allowed to succeed.”

This new Strategy is the result of that review: building on progress made since 2011 and evolving to counter new and emerging threats, to reflect the changing situation around the world, and to learn lessons from the tragic attacks in the UK over the past years. Because the threat we face is large and multi-faceted, this Strategy has a much greater focus on systemic co-ordination across the public sector. By linking up not just the intelligence agencies but also local authorities, education providers and many others, it will make it harder than ever for terrorists and those who support them to plan and carry out attacks. This joined-up approach, around a common goal of preventing terrorism, mirrors the public’s response to the terrorist atrocities we witnessed last year. In the days and weeks after the attacks I was proud of the way the country came together in defiance of those who would drive us apart.

 By Sue Manning, Managing Director


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