A new policy being considered by the British government’s Home Office would require that nursery staff report any children who might be at risk of sympathizing with terrorists.
“Senior management and governors are expected to assess the risk of pupils being drawn into terrorism, including support for the extremist ideas that are part of terrorist ideology,” says the Prevent Strategy consultation document, which accompanies a Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill that is currently before Parliament.
The document goes on to say that child care staff would be ordered to “identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism,” according to the Independent.
Sentiments expressed by young children against non-Muslims or anti-Semitic comments must be reported to the Home Office under the new policy, the paper noted.
Conservative MP David Davis called the proposal “unworkable.”
“It is hard to see how this can be implemented,” he said. “I have to say I cannot understand what they [nursery staff] are expected to do… Are they supposed to report some toddler who comes in praising a preacher deemed to be extreme? I don’t think so.”
“It’s heavy-handed,” Davis added.
Liberty President Isabella Sankey, who is a human rights advocate, agreed.
“Turning our teachers and childminders into an army of involuntary spies will not stop the terrorist threat,” she explained. “Far from bringing those at the margins back into mainstream society, it will sow seeds of mistrust, division and alienation from an early age.”
In a statement on Saturday, a spokesperson for the Home Office downplayed the significance of the new policy.
“We are not expecting teachers and nursery workers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life, but we do expect them to take action when they observe behaviour of concern,” the statement said. “It is important that children are taught fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way. For children in the early years, this will be about learning right from wrong and in practitioners challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes.”
“We would expect staff to have the training they need to identify children at risk of radicalisation and know where and how to refer them for further help if necessary.”