Toddlers at risk of extremism, warns Education Secretary

August 7, 2014

Nurseries are at risk of being taken over by religious extremists, the Education Secretary will warn as she announces that toddlers are to be taught “fundamental British values”. In her first major policy announcement, Nicky Morgan will say that local authorities will be obliged to use new powers to strip nurseries of their funding if they are found to “promote extremist views”. She will also say that toddlers should be taught “fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way” as part of a drive to protect children from religious radicals.

Nurseries that teach creationism as scientific fact will be ineligible for taxpayer funding, under the new rules. Mrs Morgan’s announcement comes in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” plot by Islamist radicals to take over state schools in Birmingham. The scandal involved primary and secondary schools, but this is the first time the Government has warned that children as young as two could require protection from extremists. Mrs Morgan is understood to be concerned about the risks posed to children by nurseries linked to radical mosques or run by Islamic hardliners.

There are also concerns within the Government that councils need greater powers to react when allegations of extremist values are raised. At present, local authorities provide funding to nurseries that meet basic Ofsted requirements, but there is no explicit statement that they must not support providers — such as churches, mosques or charities — with extremist views. There are fears that loopholes leave councils feeling powerless to cut off financing for organisations which they have concerns about. “After Birmingham, we feel it is important to be proactive,” a government source said.

However, sources added that there is no concrete intelligence about individual nurseries that demands immediate action.

For toddlers, the teaching of such values is likely to include learning right from wrong, learning to take turns and share, and “challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes”, it is understood. The rules on creationism will bring nurseries into line with state-funded schools. A government source said: “We are absolutely not saying, ‘you can’t teach Bible stories’.”

Ofsted, the education watchdog, will use the new guidelines in its inspections of nurseries. A consultation will take place in September and Mrs Morgan hopes the rules will come into force in the New Year.

Mrs Morgan described the findings as “disturbing” and said in future teachers would be sacked without appeal if they exposed children to extremism.