Nurseries uniquely placed to spot radicalisation

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The country has shuddered at images of a young child being exploited by terrorists, says Purnima Tanuku. But nurseries can do much to keep children safe.


Purnima Tanuku

Our hearts turn cold hearing the child speak words that he or she doesn’t even understand. Children will believe what adults say to them, especially a parent or relative, whether it’s right or wrong.

And we all want to protect that child and stop this happening.

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. Where we care for each other.

A nursery’s first duty is to keep that child safe and that includes being safe from harmful influences of radical thinking or any threat to their liberty.

Two-year-old children from disadvantaged backgrounds and all three and four year olds in the country are offered free hours of early years education. This is the key to influencing their future behaviour and wellbeing.

A child’s nursery worker is well placed to teach them tolerant values during these delicate, sensitive and formative years.

If a child learns and understands this way of thinking at an early age it will stay with them – but equally, being instilled with negative ideas could also stick and taint their life ahead.

Nurseries have been celebrating different cultures and teaching children about tolerance for years. Since July 2015 this practice has been enshrined as Promoting British Values within the framework followed by all childcare providers, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

Equally important under the Prevent Duty is spotting the signs of radicalisation in the adults around a young child. Nursery practitioners are in a unique position to do this – they have a closer relationship with parents than schools do and due to tight ratios, know the child intimately.

They can recognise sudden changes in behaviour which could be a sign of child abuse which includes radicalisation and they act on it.

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 behaviour.

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.

  • See our guide to British Values and the Prevent Duty in Nursery World on 8 February.
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