Questions & Answers

There is no single route to radicalisation.

Radicalisation can occur quickly, or over a long period. Sometimes there are clear warning signs, in other cases the changes are less obvious. Teenage years are a time of great change and young people are often solitary, quick to anger and distrustful of authority. As a teacher, you are well placed to recognise when a student is acting out of character. The behaviours described here are intended as a guide to help you identify possible radicalisation: have confidence in your professional judgment and seek advice if something feels wrong.

Pupils may become argumentative and unwilling to listen to other people’s points of view. They may refuse to engage with or become abusive to peers who are different to themselves, perhaps on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexuality. They may also become susceptible to conspiracy theories and feelings of persecution.

Changes in friendship groups and appearance can also be an indication: students may distance themselves from friends, both online and offline, convert to a new religion, significantly change their appearance or clothing, and reject activities they used to enjoy.

Pupils at risk may also change their online identity, including their social media name or profile image. Some will have two parallel online profiles – one their ‘normal’ or old self and the other an extremist identity, often with another name. They may spend excessive amounts of time online or on their phone, and be secretive and reluctant to discuss what they’re doing.

More explicit signs include expressions of sympathy for extremist ideologies and groups or justification of their actions, accessing extremist material online, including on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, possessing other forms of extremist literature, being in contact with extremist recruiters and joining or seeking to join extremist organisations.

Popular Resources

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Guides and resources for setting up a debate club in your school, and details of the Institute of Ideas’ national Debating Matters Competition.

Session plans for young people, exploring how democracy works and encouraging students to see themselves as active members of society.

Short films and classroom exercises which encourage critical thinking and challenge myths in order to build resilience to extremism.

Lawyers who work with small groups of students to explore a range of legal topics, such as human rights, consumer law and intellectual property.

Magistrates who visit schools, colleges and community groups to discuss how our justice system works, including how verdicts and sentences are decided.

Ways to engage with the democratic process at Westminster, including augmented reality experiences at the Parliamentary Education Centre.

Members of the House of Lords visit schools and colleges to talk and answer questions about their work and their role in our parliamentary system.