THE headteacher of Bolton's leading school criticised the government's counter terrorism strategy — saying it stifles the "very things" that will help combat it.

Philip Britton, headmaster of Bolton School boys' division urged schools to move beyond the Prevent strategy, which is part of the government’s wider counter-terrorism measures and aims to stop young people from becoming radicalised.

Since July schools have had the duty to engage with the strategy.

In February the school is organising a conference to which local schools will be invited, and an public session for adults will be held in the evening to discuss this issue.

Guest speakers will include Professor Mona Siddique, who appears on Radio 4 Thought for the Day.

Recently Mr Britton blogged about the issue.

Mr Britton said: "As headmaster of a boys’ school in one of Britain’s most multicultural towns, radicalisation is definitely on my radar and I recognise the crucial role of schools in teaching tolerance and mutual respect.

"But sadly, the government’s new Prevent strategy seems to be stifling the very things that will help prevent terrorism: positive challenge and healthy discussion.”

He adds that Prevent has "undoubtedly done good work" but also creates an environment in which there is a fear of saying the wrong thing, particularly around the sensitive issues of race and religion.

Mr Britton says that this needs to change and what schools and teachers can do to promote inclusion through increased and open debate "that fosters mutual understanding".

He added that “living a life of faith in modern society is difficult for anyone of whatever religion” and “the crucial point is that young Muslims must learn not to separate off and exclude themselves, but to choose instead to live a life of faith within society, not alongside society”.

Mr Britton added: “The socialisation that happens in schools should help young people take responsibility to fit into society as they find it.

"If young people at my school and others are to make a difference for good, then they need to be shown strong positive role models at school, at home and in the mosque on how to do this, and be given advice on how to live a life confident in their faith within and accepting of wider society.”

Security Minister John Hayes said: “The Prevent duty is about protecting those who might be vulnerable from the poisonous influence of extremism, and stop them being drawn into terrorism.

“Schools play a vital role in protecting pupils from the risks of radicalisation. It is right and important that these issues are discussed in an open and trusting environment.”

Prevent was set up to stop people from becoming radicalised and joining terror groups like ISIS.