LONDON: A former top spymaster today called for improved religious education in schools to protect children from becoming radicalised. Lord Evans of Weardale, who was director general of MI5 from 2007 to 2013, told the Evening Standard: “Understanding different religions and world views, and therefore being able to understand the world you’re living in, has got to be helpful in giving people the power to reflect on their own beliefs. Therefore in my view it’s helpful to make people more likely to be resistant to extremism.” The crossbench peer, who also served as a non-executive director at the National Crime Agency from 2014 to 2015, added: “Personally I think religious education should be provided in all schools. It should be properly resourced and it should be done in a way which is engaging and meaningful for young people.” Schools must teach RE but parents can take their children out of lessons if they want. Local authorities set syllabuses for the subject, but faith schools and academies can set their own. Lord Evans also defended the Government’s Prevent strategy, which is focused on stopping young people being drawn into extremism. It has been labelled “toxic” by critics who claim it undermines trust in communities. Of the 4,000 referrals of pupils made by teachers and childcare professionals to Prevent in the 18 months up to spring 2016, 90 per cent resulted in no action being taken. At a conference of counterterrorism experts organised by charitable initiative Combating Jihadist Terrorism in the UK, Lord Evans said: “Prevent has not been a failure there have been many successes. But it remains contested territory for a variety of reasons and I think some of those who are arguing against Prevent do so for dishonourable reasons.