OFSTED Praises the Academy
The Academy is at the forefront of work to prevent young people becoming radicalised by extremist groups.
Now the approach at the Academy has been praised by Ofsted inspectors and is also being used as a model for other schools.
The latest step saw us host a training session for hundreds of teachers and support staff last week, which was led by Staffordshire Police’s Prevent team.
It covered what schools should do if they are concerned about a vulnerable pupil and how referrals are dealt with by officers. There were also case studies on Islamic fundamentalism and far-right extremism.
Police stress there is no evidence of any school pupils in Stoke-on-Trent being involved in these kind of groups.
And that was a view backed up by Ofsted when they visited the Academy.
Their report says ‘a culture of tolerance, respect and inclusion permeates the life of the academy’ and students are well supported in all aspects of safeguarding work.
Principal Nick Lowry said: “Children are children here. It doesn’t matter about their colour, culture or religion. We make sure they are tolerant of everyone.
“We are proud of what we do. We work with a lot of different agencies, including the police.”
But he acknowledged the school’s multicultural mix meant it could not shy away from looking at tougher issues facing society.
Almost half of our students are Muslim, and 34 different languages are spoken across the Academy.
The Government’s Prevent strategy highlights how schools can play a vital role in stopping people getting sucked into extremist activities.
At the Co-operative Academy, a theatre group recently worked with students on a drama exploring the issue.
Staff have also taken part in a Home Office project to become more aware of online radicalism.
Mr Lowry said: “It looked at the Arab Spring and the technology behind that.”
With most young people nowadays having mobile phones, the risk of being exposed to unsavoury materials has grown.
Staff learnt through the training how all sorts of techniques can be used to hide images and other documents from plain view, including keycodes on phones which open up secret screens.
“It’s about understanding what you need to look for,” said Mr Lowry. “There might be key words and phrases that you hear or apps on young people’s phones.”
Councillor Shaun Pender, cabinet member for education at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “The Co-operative Academy has been proactive in seeking our advice for the Prevent agenda.
“And, as a result of our work with the school, we are looking to build on our support to other academies.”
Detective Sergeant Calum Forsyth, from Staffordshire Police, also praised the school’s work in ‘understanding the importance of Prevent within the school structure’.