In the latest “think of the children” idea to come out of the United Kingdom, a new bill proposes that nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers they think are at risk of becoming terrorists.
The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.
Critics said the idea was “unworkable” and “heavy-handed”, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as “spies”.
The document accompanies the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament. It identifies nurseries and early years childcare providers, along with schools and universities, as having a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.
The consultation paper adds: “Senior management and governors should make sure that staff have training that gives them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups.
David Davis, the Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary, said: “It is hard to see how this can be implemented. It is unworkable. 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 is heavy-handed.”
Headteachers’ union NAHT, said it was “uneasy” with the new guidance. General secretary Russell Hobby, said: “It’s really important that nurseries are able to establish a strong relationship of trust with families, as they are often the first experience the families will have of the education system.
“Any suspicions that they are evaluating families for ideology could be quite counterproductive.
“Nursery settings should focus on the foundations of literacy and socialising with other children – those are the real ‘protections’.”
Schools and nurseries, he said, should not be required to act as a police service.