A Soldier Escorts Schoolchildren From The Army Public School Under Attack By Taliban Gunmen In Peshawar
A soldier escorts schoolchildren from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, December 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen in Pakistan took hundreds of students and teachers hostage on Tuesday in a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, military officials said. Reuters/Khuram Parvez

The proposed British government's policy to make day care and nursery school staff to report details of children sympathising with terrorists has come under fire from law makers and rights activists. "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," noted the Prevent Strategy consultation document, which accompanied the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill currently before Parliament.

The document insists that child care staff has to "identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism," reported the Independent. Similarly, there must be prompt reporting about the attitudes of young children against non-Muslims or anti-Semitic comments.

MP Slams Proposal

Conservative MP David Davis called the proposal unworkable and said "it is hard to see how this can be implemented." Davis said he was unable to understand what the 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, " the MP quipped.

The same view was expressed by Liberty President Isabella Sankey, a human rights advocate. She said, turning the teachers and child minders into an army of involuntary spies will not curb the terrorist threat. "Far from bringing those at the margins back into mainstream society, it will only sow the seeds of mistrust, division and alienation from an early age," Sankey warned.

British Values

A spokesperson for the Home Office downplayed the attacks on the new policy. "We are not expecting teachers and nursery workers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life. We only expect them to take action when they observe any behaviour of concern," the statement of the spokesperson said.

The government envisages children being taught fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way. For children in the early years, this will be learning right from wrong and practitioners challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes. The government expects the nursery staff to have the training required to identify children at risk of radicalisation and know how to refer them for further help.

Theresa May, Home Secretary, who introduced the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill described the measures as "considered and targeted." The Home Secretray noted that Britain is in the middle of a generational struggle against a deadly terrorist ideology. "New powers are essential to keep up with the very serious and rapidly changing threats we face," May said. The Telegraph reported that the Bill proposes many new measures to check terror activities, including seizure of passport at the airport by police from suspected terrorists.