Child who wanted to give ‘alms’ to the poor reported to Prevent

A primary school pupil who told his class he wanted to give ‘alms’ to the needy was reported to the controversial Prevent programme because his teacher thought he had said ‘arms’.

The teacher had asked the class what they would do if they inherited a large sum of money. The eleven-year-old, who is interested in medieval history, said he would “give alms to the oppressed”.

The teacher mistook the word for ‘arms’ and referred the Muslim boy to the anti-terror watchdog. But the police dismissed the case, saying there was no sign of radicalisation or extremism, and that the boy did not pose a threat to national security.


His parents are taking legal action. They are demanding a written apology from the school, and that the referral to Prevent is removed from his record. They accuse the teacher of discriminating against their son by assuming he was involved in extremism based on his racial and religious background.

Lawyers representing the family say the anti-terror programme “simply does not work”, and that it is “potentially harmful and needs to be scrapped”.

Attiq Malik, Director of Liberty Law Solicitors, said: “There is no need for a policy that is nothing less than the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

He added: “Every time a Prevent referral is made, it generates a record with the Home Office and various other intelligence agencies. And it’s very unfair that a child, who has done nothing wrong, is suddenly having data created about him which may not ever be deleted.”

School chaplain

The Prevent programme was recently criticised after a school chaplain was reported to it for telling pupils at a Christian school that while they should respect everyone, they do not need to accept “the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists” where they are in conflict with Christian values.

Revd Dr Bernard Randall launched legal action against his former employer for discrimination, harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal.

The Charity Commission has faced calls to investigate the school over its handling of the situation.

The Commission said it is aware of the case, and that “should further concerns come to light, we would assess these in line with our regulatory and risk framework”.

‘Terrorists’ and ‘Cooker-bombs’

In 2016, a Muslim boy who mistakenly wrote that he lived in a “terrorist” house rather than a “terraced” house was visited by the police after teachers reported him to the Prevent scheme.

A report by Rights Watch UK later in the year detailed other examples of the scheme being applied too widely, including a nursery school child who was investigated because teachers thought he had said “cooker-bomb” rather than “cucumber”.

And in Hampshire, a 16-year-old student was referred to Prevent after they took out a book on terrorism from the school library.

Also see:


Jacob Rees-Mogg: ‘Free speech is fundamental to society’

Kids’ playground chat could spark ‘hate crime’ investigation for parents

Kids who go to badger protests may be considered extremists