Radicalisation and Extremism

There is no single route to radicalisation. However, there are some behavioural traits that could indicate a child has been exposed to radicalising influences.

Radicalisation in children can happen over a long period of time. In some cases it is triggered by a specific incident or news item and can happen much quicker. Sometimes there are clear warning signs of radicalisation, in other cases the changes are less obvious.

The teenage years are a time of great change and young people often want to be on their own, easily become angry and often mistrust authority. This makes it hard to differentiate between normal teenage behaviour and attitude that indicates one of your students may have been exposed to radicalising influences.

The following behaviours listed here are intended as a guide to help you identify possible radicalisation:

Outward appearance

  • Becoming increasingly argumentative
  • Refusing to listen to different points of view
  • Unwilling to engage with students who are different
  • Becoming abusive to students who are different
  • Embracing conspiracy theories
  • Feeling persecuted
  • Changing friends and appearance
  • Distancing themselves from old friends
  • No longer doing things they used to enjoy
  • Converting to a new religion
  • Being secretive and reluctant to discuss their whereabouts
  • Sympathetic to extremist ideologies and groups

Online behaviour

  • Changing online identity
  • Having more than one online identity
  • Spending a lot of time online or on the phone
  • Accessing extremist online content
  • Joining or trying to join an extremist organisation

You know your students well, so are in a prime position to recognise if they’re acting out of character. Trust and have confidence in your professional judgement, and get advice if something feels wrong.


A downloadable booklet for teachers about how to increase your pupils’ resilience to extremism, produced by Educate Against Hate.

Through a series of hard-hitting films of real people affected by radicalisation, Extreme Dialogue enables teachers to show young people all the faces of extremism. It equips young people to challenge extremism, helping them navigate core themes and questions using films, educational resources and training. Videos are accompanied by interactive presentations (Prezis). The downloadable resources are all modular and are informed by more than 20 years of research and experience in managing global and community conflict. The seven true stories include a mother whose son died fighting in Syria and a former member of a far-right terrorist group. You will need to give your email address to Extreme Dialogue when downloading the below resources.

Statutory guidance for local authorities and agencies working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their care. The Children Acts of 1989 and 2004 set out specific duties of the local authority to undertake enquiries if they believe a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm. These duties can only be discharged with the full co-operation of other partners and other agencies. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play and this advice sets out clearly the principles and key areas of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

Guidance for schools and childcare providers on preventing children and young people from being drawn into terrorism. This non-statutory advice from the Department for Education has been produced to explain what the Prevent duty means for schools and childcare providers; make clear what schools and childcare providers should do to demonstrate compliance with the duty; and inform schools and childcare providers about other sources of information, advice and support.