By Rebecca Camber
Children as young as four are being monitored by terror police who fear they could be brainwashed by Islamic extremists.
A leaked police memo has revealed that counter-terrorism officers have visited nursery schools over concerns toddlers could be radicalised.
West Midlands counter-terrorism police emailed local community groups suggesting that children could be targets for terrorist recruiters.
An officer wrote: ‘I do hope that you will tell me about persons, of whatever age, you think may have been radicalised or be vulnerable to radicalisation … Evidence suggests that radicalisation can take place from the age of 4.’
The sergeant went on: ‘I am a police officer and therefore it will always be part of my role to gather intelligence and I will report back any information or intelligence which may suggest someone is a terrorist, or is planning to be one or to support others.
‘However, my role is to raise the level of awareness of the threat of terrorism and radicalisation and support and work with partners to try to prevent it.’
Officers specially trained in identifying children and young people vulnerable to radicalisation also spoke to staff at nursery and primary schools.
Arun Kundnani, of the Institute of Race Relations, later contacted the officer responsible, who said it was standard to visit nurseries.
He told the Times: ‘He did seem to think it was standard. He said it wasn’t just him or his unit that was doing it. He said the indicators were they [children] might draw pictures of bombs and say things like ‘all Christians are bad’ or that they believe in an Islamic state.
‘It seems that nursery teachers in the West Midlands area are being asked to look out for radicalisation.
‘He felt that it was necessary to cover nurseries as well as primary and secondary schools.’
The revelation comes as new Home Office figures show a seven-year-old has become the youngest child to feature in a scheme to tackle grooming by extremists.
The child was one of 228 people referred to the Channel Project, part of Prevent, the Government’s flagship strategy to stop young people becoming terrorists.
More than 90 per cent of those identified by the project are between 15 and 24 and most are Muslim.
The programme, funded from the £3.5 billion per year security budget has been dogged by controversy over its aims and claims by some Muslims they are being spied on.
Yesterday Sir Norman Bettison, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on Prevent, said that the officer’s e-mail was a ‘clumsy’ attempt to explain the Government’s strategy.
Sir Norman, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, said: ‘There is absolutely no example, nationally, of the police engaging with nursery-age kids specifically on this issue.
‘That is the age for learning about “Stranger Danger” and “The Tufty Club”.’
Yesterday West Midlands Police confirmed its counter-terrorism unit had visited a nursery school attached to a primary school and had spoken to staff.
A spokesman said: ‘We are actually trying to get over the accusation that Prevent is about spying by being more open and we are reaping the benefits now with better engagement.
By James Slack
Anger management lessons for bully pupils aged just five
Primary school pupils are to be taught gender equality as part of the national curriculum, ministers announced yesterday.
The lessons will be part of a previously-revealed drive to make children more aware of the evils of domestic violence.
Classes for children as young as five will begin with gentle warnings against name-calling and bullying based on the victim’s sex.
Towards the end of secondary school, children will be taught about domestic violence and the links between alcohol, drugs and such abuse.
Teachers will be assessed on how well they cover the subjects.
The action plan – called Violence Against Women and Girls – has been drawn up by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Commons leader Harriet Harman. It is intended to be in place by 2011.
Before they can qualify, trainee teachers will have to learn about gender awareness and domestic violence.
Officials will also produce rules for teachers on tackling ‘sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying’.
But campaigners said using school time for the lessons would hinder children’s progress in academic subjects.
Margaret Morrissey, of the Parents Outloud campaign group, said: ‘The Government should stop interfering with parents bringing up their children and focus on teaching children to read, write and all those things they need to get a career.
‘This is turning our children into confused mini-adults from the age of five to nine. This has nothing at all to do with academic learning.’
Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Youngsters should naturally know not to do these sort of things and must be called to account if they do.
‘But teachers have enough to do in teaching English, maths and science to a reasonable level without addressing issues that parents should be dealing with.’
In August, the Mail reported that ministers wanted domestic violence to be added to the national curriculum. Now they have added gender equality to the list.
Government anti-terrorism strategy ’spies’ on innocent
A future of pre-crime is almost here *
Telegraph: School children taught to spy as a ‘terrorist can look like anybody’ *
BBC: Tens of thousands getting terror training – Creation of a paranoid/spy society *