Nursery staff will be forced to report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists under plans drawn up by the Home Office.
It is part of the department’s consultation over ways to enhance its anti-terrorism strategy, Prevent.
Critics have dismissed the proposals as being unnecessarily draconian and turning staff, who are meant to be caring for youngsters, into spies.
The consultation document on the Prevent Strategy states: “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.”
It continues, staff are expected to “identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism” and “challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism”.
The Home Office said it would not expect the hypothetical situation of a young child being taught that non-Muslims are wicked to be ignored. Equally, anti-Semitic comments made in front of nursery workers should be reported, the department added.
But opponents of the plans are unsure how they will work in practice.
“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,” Davis Davis, the Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary, told the Telegraph.
“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,” he added.
Childcare providers are just one of the sectors that will be affected by the new rules. Schools, colleges, universities, prisons and hospitals will all be subject to the stringent rules “to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
The plans are in a document submitted with the Government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is going through Parliament.
A Government spokesperson told The Independent: “Schools, including nurseries, have a duty of care to their pupils and staff. The new duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism will be seen in a similar way to their existing safeguarding responsibilities.
"We are not expecting teachers and nursery workers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life but we do expect them to take action when they observe behaviour of concern. It is important that children are taught fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way.”