I am now Emeritus Professor of International Education at the University of Birmingham, UK and also a Director of the social enterprise ConnectFutures http://www.connectfutures.org . My major interests are in the linked areas of education and conflict, extremism, democracy, human rights and equity. After the book on Education and Conflict (2004), I completed a book Educating Against Extremism (Trentham 2008) which looked at how education might prevent young people joining extremist groups – or conversely whether education does not protect against fundamentalism. From this I got involved in research on mentoring those at risk of radicalisation. My 2014 book Unsafe Gods: Security, secularism and schooling examined the interface between religion, security and education, and argues for a new form of dynamic secularism to promote a complex, adaptive society. I’ve returned to complexity theory, finding it incredibly useful for understanding how security is threatened or can be strengthened.
In 2014 I was awarded the Sir Brian Urquhart award for Distinguished Service to the United Nations and its goals by a UK citizen, which was a great honour. I continue to do work around post-conflict, and in 2017 did a major review of Sri Lanka/s National Policy on Education for Peace and Social Cohesion – which I have been involved with for almost a decade. I’ve also been working with UNESCO on a manual for policy makers on Preventing Violent Extremism, and with the International Centre for Transitional Justice in New York, on justice-centred education.
My major practical activity now is with ConnectFutures, where we’re engaged in research, training and constancy in areas of extremism, exploitation and building trust in communities. We did some fascinating research interviewing former extremists and their families (Islamist and far right) and have developed a number of films of those involved in extremism to be used in schools and communities. These include films of former extremists but also two mothers – one whose son went to fight in Syria and was killed and one whose son was killed in the Manchester arena bombing. These are very powerful for work in schools, looking at what could be prevented, but also questions of forgiveness. We have developed interactive on-line and face-to-face training on the UK government’s Prevent strategy, and are rolling this out to schools, health and probation services and local authorities. My writing now is mostly regular blogs on current issues concerning extremism, terrorism and violence. All on the website www.connectfutures.org.
Recent activities and news
- Completed a major review 2017 for University of Gothenburg ‘Review of Educational Initiatives in Counter-Extremism Internationally: What Works? which looked at 20 different entry points in 23 countries. Invited to talk on this at international conference in Montenegro by Council of Europe, May 2018 https://segerstedtinstitutet.gu.se/digitalAssets/1673/1673173_review-of-educational-initiatives-180110.pdf
- Evaluating a project on mentoring Muslim prisoners, working with St Giles Trust
- Membership of the Board of Trustees of the Africa Educational Trust( AET), supporting their important work with the most disadvantaged groups in Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and South Africa. Wrote review of evaluations of their work called In From the Margins, to be launched at their 60 year anniversary in May 2018.
- Work on the Board for the Georg Arnhold Visiting Professorship at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research; will contribute to their international summer school in July 2018 Preventing Violent Extremism Through Education
- Organising Easter Egg hunt for granddaughter, now 2½. She is learning negotiation skills. Biting into her first egg, a hollow one, she said indignantly, ‘It’s got a hole!. I enquired, ‘Can grandma have a bite?’ ‘No’, she said firmly, ‘You can have the hole”.