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Nursery workers have been warned to look out for signs of radicalisation in parents following concerns about children being radicalised and forced to leave Britain to travel to Syria.
The calls come from National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), which recognised that nurseries have a duty of care when teaching children to be tolerant of different backgrounds, upbringings and faith in their early years.
Chief executive of the NDNA, Purnima Tanuku has called for nurseries to report any concerns they have about parents and children being radicalised as part of their duty of care.
She said: “The country has shuddered at images of a young child being exploited by terrorists. 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.”
The Prevent Duty legislation gives workers the power to spot signs of radicalisation in adults around young children. Nursery practitioners are ideally placed to spot signs of radicalisation, having close relationships with parents and carers in tight ratios and knowing each child closely.
Stressing that nursery workers have the power to teach children tolerant values during their early years. Ms Tanuku specifically highlighted that children are able to learn and understand this way of thinking from a young age, warning that equally negative ideas can be instilled and stick with them for life.
Ms Tanuku added: “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.
“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). 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.”