Nicky Morgan will use her first major speech to highlight the danger of extremism in Britain’s nurseries after ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal
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.
Ministers were prompted to act after a consultation into early education funding received 450 responses from individuals and organisations expressing concerns about funding going to organisations that promote extremist views.
A report by Peter Clarke, a former counter-terrorism chief at the Metropolitan Police, into the Birmingham schools scandal highlighted that the education system needed to be able to respond swiftly if concerns are raised.
Mrs Morgan, who replaced Michael Gove as Education Secretary in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle, strongly believes that any institution that fails to prepare children for life in modern
Britain cannot be sustained with public funding.
Proposals by Mr Gove to oblige schools to promote “fundamental British values” will be extended to children as young as two, Mrs Morgan will say. 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.
In July, Mr Clarke concluded there was a “co-ordinated” campaign by Islamist hardliners to oust state school head teachers and impose an “aggressive Islamic ethos” on pupils in Birmingham.
Council officials were aware of the plot for two years but “failed to intervene appropriately” as they feared offending Muslims. Mr Clarke said teachers used a secret instant messaging group on which they called for the “eradication” of homosexuality and claimed the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was “staged”.
Dozens of children were said to have been tasked to act as “religious police” to report on staff and pupils who spoke “out of turn” or wore “inappropriate dress”.
Mrs Morgan described the findings as “disturbing” and said in future teachers would be sacked without appeal if they exposed children to extremism.