CAIRO – Citing concerns about the radicalization of young toddlers, UK nurseries were assigned to report any signs of change in the behavior of kids and their parents, despite earlier criticism to the move.
“They can recognize sudden changes in behavior which could be a sign of child abuse which includes radicalization and they act on it,” Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), told the Guardian.
“When parents take their children away to places like Syria, there could be early warning signs. Nursery practitioners have a duty to report any concerns they may have about either of the parents’ or the child’s behavior.”
Tanuku added that the nursery staff also have a responsibility to be vigilant and report any concerns they may have about the behavior of parents or children.
“We need to continue to do this and society needs to recognise their positive influence on children in order to try to prevent more children losing their free will to terrorists,” she said.
Tanuku’s comments follow the recent appearance in an Islamic State propaganda video of a young child speaking in English.
A London man has claimed the child is his grandson, born to his daughter who reverted to Islam and travelled to Syria several years ago.
Tanuku, whose organization represents more than 5,500 nurseries across the UK, said a nursery’s first duty was to keep a child safe, which included being safe from “the harmful influences of radical thinking or any threat to their liberty”.
She continued: “When nurseries were included in the Prevent Duty legislation alongside schools and colleges last year, there was some scepticism. How could children so young become involved in terrorism? How could you influence a baby?
“Yet we have seen children of all ages taken with parents to fight against the values we hold dear. This is why it is crucial that pre-school children are given a positive experience of a life of freedom – where people’s views, customs and religions are respected and differences are celebrated. A child’s nursery worker is well placed to teach them tolerant values during these delicate, sensitive and formative years.”
In January 2015, a counter-terrorism measure proposed by the government forced nursery school staff and registered childminders to report toddlers 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”.