THE UK’s counter-extremism strategy has come under fresh criticism after it emerged a school pupil had been interviewed by police after writing an essay about Syria.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, Scotland’s biggest teaching union, said much of the material used in the UK Government’s Prevent programme is “Islamophobic”.

His comments were part of an investigation aired on STV’s Scotland Tonight show.

It found teachers have “serious concerns” about monitoring children as part of the strategy, which asks professionals to report youngsters deemed at risk of radicalisation.

The Unison union revealed a “massive mistrust and lack of confidence” in the plan and Scots Muslims said it “works against” their community.

Work by Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SAAC), which campaigns against Prevent, shows almost 5,000 teachers have been given the anti-radicalisation training in Glasgow alone this year.

Glasgow City Council said it has a statutory duty to give “due consideration” to Prevent, but Richard Haley of SAAC accused authorities of “trying to put police officers inside the heads of teachers” and said its implementation will “create a culture of suspicion” against Muslims and “poison” relations between staff and students.

A separate study by the Open Society Justice Initiative recommended a major rethink of the strategy. In one case raised in that paper, a four-year-old boy who had drawn a picture of a cucumber at an English nursery was referred after telling staff it was a “cuker-bum” – which they took to mean “cooker bomb”.

The study said: “Prevent’s targeting of non-violent extremism and ‘indicators’ of risk of being drawn into terrorism lack a scientific basis.”

Security minister Ben Wallace said the findings “contain inaccuracies and lack balance” and failed to take account of “the severe nature of the terrorism threat”.

He said: “The threat from radicalisation, both Islamist and extreme right wing, is very real. It is disappointing to see conclusions that risk damaging work that is essential to keeping vulnerable people safe from extremism and terrorism.”

The Prevent strategy relies on referrals from teachers, nurses, doctors and others in close proximity to “at-risk” individuals. However, the Scotland Tonight report found parts of the Muslim community in Scotland see Prevent as “toxic” and will not engage with it.

Student Abdul Hussain told the programme: “By and large, we avoid Prevent, we don’t want to be associated with it because again it’s not beneficial to the community, it’s working against us and if you’re working for Prevent as a Muslim, you’re working against your own community.”

Flanagan said: “A lot of the training material made available has been heavily loaded, in terms of being Islamaphobic in nature and ultimately what it will do is close down discussion in Scotland. Our advice to members is where this has been proposed as mandatory training they should resist the mandatory nature of it.

“One example was of a pupil who had written an essay expressing his views on Syria. Somehow that led to him being interviewed by the police.

“Would a white pupil have been referred for writing the same essay?”

Former anti-terror coordinator Alan Burnett defended the policy: “It’s evolved over time and is still improving and offers a real opportunity to stop vulnerable people getting involved in terrorism.”