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Together with other colleges and universities, we recently had a visit from Special Branch asking us to look out for “radicals” as, apparently, the further education and higher education sectors have been identified as an area where “radicalism” could potentially flourish.

My college, of course, would inform the Police if we felt that there was terrorist activity going on, as we do with other matters where people might be in danger, or where there is incitement to hatred or violence. We have a very strict “zero tolerance” drugs policy and anti-bullying and harassment policies.

However, let’s get this into perspective.

There has been far too much “hype” in the media that can lead to engendering a climate of fear in young people. Educational institutions are places where youngsters should be exposed to a range of views and are able to express these, within the boundaries of respect for and tolerance of others.

Students should be encouraged to explore new ideas openly; they should be exposed to the realities of the world; they should be encouraged to seek solutions to inequalities and injustice in society. I hope that our recent Human Rights Week and visits from Amnesty International are not considered to be “radicalism”.

Tabloid journalists may find it convenient to label colleges as places where radicals gather and plot. In so doing they perform a great disservice, in that we bring, not only through special events such as Diversity Week but also everything we do, tolerance and a recognition of the contribution of all to society, regardless of race or religion.

Jane Machell, Principal, Alton College.

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Related FE News articles:

Unions Condemn Govt “Spy” Plans ““ 17/10/06

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