The video is a partnership between East Midlands Special Operations Unit’s (EMSOU) Prevent programme and Public Services Higher Education students at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall campus.
The 30-minute video – entitled SMART (Safeguarding Multi Agency Approaches Reduces Terrorism) focuses on the dangers to vulnerable young people of becoming radicalised, the changes in behaviour that teachers, parents and peers should look out for. See the trailer here.
Characters in the video are played by students at St Benedict’s Performing Arts College in Derby and funding for the project was secured from national charity UnLtd, EMSOU, Derby College and the Derby College students’ own fund raising.
The video narrates the story of a 14-year-old girl who is lonely and isolated at a new school after her parents’ divorce and turns to social media where she meets an older male who introduces her to extremist views.
It has two alternative endings – depending on what route the teacher leading the discussion wants to take.
One has disastrous consequences with the girl getting involved in a protest and planting bomb. The other is that the warning signs in her behaviour were heeded and, with help given from a wide range of agencies, the actions were prevented and the girl supported to get her life back on track.
Derby College students Jodie Benton (23), Chelsea Lambert (29) and Gina Reader (22) joined the project two years ago as part of their HND Public Services programme.
Having graduated on the BA (Hons) Security and Offender Management degree programme at the College, in partnership with the University of Derby, Jodie and Chelsea now working with young people and Gina with ex-offenders and adult with mental health issues.
They volunteered for the project with Prevent team who approached the College for support in producing some material suitable for schools as part of their work to safeguard vulnerable young people from the risks of radicalisation.
Pc Jamie Robinson from the Prevent team: explained: “We were keen to have an education tool that was devised and produced by young people and started from a blank canvas so that it was their words and view on the subject.
“The three students from Derby College decided that a video was the best tool and have done an incredible job writing the script, sourcing funding and producing the video.
“I am very proud of the mature attitude and commitment from the group of 30 pupils from St Benedict’s who filmed and played the characters in the video.
“They have all really stepped up to the mark on this and the end result is a very powerful story that challenges the stereotypical view of radicalisation and terrorism.
“Rather than focusing on ideology, it concentrates on the issues of vulnerability and hate and therefore resonates with young people from all backgrounds and cultures.
“The over-riding message is that, by spotting and acting changes in behaviour, teachers, parents and agencies can work together to intervene and put the support in place to support young people who are vulnerable to such grooming and radicalisation.
“We have now had the go ahead from the Home Office that this can be made available to all schools and colleges. We are currently finalising the teaching plan resources and it will then be available online to teachers throughout the UK.”
Chelsea Lambert continued: “Our research showed that we needed to get away from the stereotypical view that young Muslim men and women are the only ones at risk of radicalisation.
“We therefore focused on a young white girl who is bullied at school and starts talking to a group online.
“We are all extremely proud of the video and if it stops just one young person going down the wrong path and highlights the warning signals to teachers and parents, then it will have done its job.”
Gina Reader added: “Hopefully this will make a difference to the lives of young people who are particularly vulnerable to being groomed and radicalised.
“The fact that it has been approved by the Home Office shows that two years’ of thorough research and hard work to bring this project together has paid off.”
Jodie Benton concluded: “We did not want this to just be about Islamic State and have involved young people from all ethnicities to make it relevant to everyone and show that radicalisation comes in all forms and potentially affects anyone.”
Maxine Harrison, Creative Arts Administrative and Extended Schools Manager at St Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy, in Duffield Road, Derby, said: “Being involved in the project was very exciting for our students, not just in the obvious aspect of being movie stars for a week, but it also gave them a huge opportunity to find out more about the potential for the radicalisation of vulnerable young people and the valuable work that the Prevent team do. They were able to ask questions and discuss the issue for themselves.
“We, as an academy feel this was a particularly valuable project and something everyone whatever their age should know more about.
“We were also very keen that the project should not show any particular group, race, religion or ethnicity as a key radicaliser.
“At any time and in any place various issues may cause selected people to turn to the wrong path in order to express their views, and it is very important that the viewer should keep an open mind as to what radicalisation is about.
“It is particularly important that the film should offer two endings one with a worst case scenario and another which offers a safeguarding route to protect the main character. It is vital to know there is hope and it is never too late to save someone.