Guidance on identifying students at risk

Taken from Channel guidance, HM Government, October 2012


There is no single route to terrorism nor is there a simple profile of those who become involved. For this reason any attempt to derive a profile can be misleading. It should not be assumed that the characteristics  and experiences set out below necessarily indicate, or lead to, individuals being either committed to terrorism or becoming a terrorist.

Neither are these indicators the only source of information required to make an appropriate assessment about vulnerability. Prevent is about early intervention to protect people from the risk they may face before illegality relating to terrorism occurs and as such is a safeguarding measure.

Vulnerability factors

Identifying vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism is built around three dimensions:

  • Engagement with an extremist group, cause or ideology
  • Intent to cause harm; and
  • Capability to cause harm

Each dimension should be considered separately as experience has shown that it is possible to be engaged without intention to cause harm and that it is possible to intend to cause harm without being particularly engaged. Experience has also shown that it is possible to stop intending to cause harm while remaining sympathetic to a cause.

Examples of indicators


  • Spending increasing time in the company of suspected or known extremists
  • Changing their style of dress or personal appearance to accord with the group
  • Day to day behaviour increasingly centred around an extremist group, ideology or cause
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities  that are not associated with the group, ideology or cause
  • Possession of material or symbols associated with an extremist cause/proscribed group[1]
  • Attempts to recruit others to  the group/ cause
  • Communications with others that suggest identification with a group, cause or ideology


  • clearly identifying another group as threatening what they stand for and blaming that group for all social or political ills;
  • using insulting or derogatory names or labels for another group;
  • speaking about the imminence of harm from the other group and the importance of action now;
  • expressing attitudes that justify offending on behalf of the group, cause or ideology;
  • condoning or supporting violence or harm towards others; or
  • plotting or conspiring with others. 


  • having a history of violence;
  • Criminal capability and access to criminal networks to support extremist goals;
  • having occupational skills that can enable acts of terrorism (such as civil engineering, pharmacology or construction);
  • having technical expertise that can be deployed (e.g. IT skills, knowledge of chemicals, military training or survival skills).

[1] A proscribed group is one that is outlawed in the UK and it is illegal for it to operate. It is a criminal offence to belong to, support or display support for a proscribed organisation. A list of proscribed groups can be found at: