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Prevent in Nurseries – All you need to know

Last updated on 20th December 2023

It’s a legal obligation for all nurseries and childcare settings to comply with the Prevent duty and help to protect young children from extremism.

Since February 2010, over 300,000 pieces of illegal terrorist-related material have been removed from the internet in the U.K. The criminals that publish this material actively use social media pages as a platform to influence young and vulnerable people.

In 2015, the U.K. government passed the Prevent duty as a legal requirement for all registered early years providers and schools throughout Great Britain. The purpose of this legislation is to provide guidelines to safeguard young children, deterring them from being drawn into terrorism.

Last year, 5738 individuals were referred to Prevent, taking the total amount of referrals to over 20,000 since the duty was passed into law. The education sector provided the largest number of referrals, accounting for 1,887 (33%) in 2019. If you work with young or vulnerable children, it’s vital that you complete Prevent training and implement a Prevent strategy to protect children in your care.

In this guide, we will explain what Prevent is, what the Prevent duty does, and how to comply with this critical legislation. We’ll also discuss what Prevent means for early years providers, the four British values that promote child welfare, and how you can access and provide sufficient training for your nursery staff.

What is Prevent?

Prevent is a set of guidelines for professionals who work with children and young adults designed to stop people from supporting terrorism or becoming terrorists. By implementing a Prevent strategy, childcare providers and teachers can safeguard and help those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Prevent is one of four elements of the U.K. Government’s counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST). CONTEST was first developed by the U.K. Home Office in 2003, with a revised version published in 2006.

The aim of CONTEST is:

“To reduce the risk to the U.K. and its interests overseas from terrorism so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.” (U.K. Home Office)

CONTEST is divided into four work-streams which are known throughout the U.K. counter-terrorism communities as the ‘four P’s’:

Prevent, Pursue, Protect, and Prepare.

The Prevent strategy has three primary objectives:

  • Challenging the ideology that supports terrorism and those who promote it
  • Protecting vulnerable people
  • Supporting sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act of 2015 states that early years care providers have a Prevent Duty “To have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. For this reason, nurseries and preparatory school staff should be savvy with government Prevent duty guidance to demonstrate their conformity to this legislation.

Teacher using her prevent training to promote British values

What does Prevent do?

Prevent implements a range of measures designed to challenge extremism.

These include:

  • Using the ‘Channel’ process to support people that are considered ‘at risk’ of being enticed into extremist or terrorist activity.
  • Supporting and working with social enterprise projects and community groups who provide services to young and vulnerable people.
  • Supporting local school, early years providers, and partner agencies through training, advice, and engagement.
  • Working closely with institutions and faith groups to help them in providing support to people who may be susceptible to radicalisation.
  • Providing a response to the ideological challenge of extremism and terrorism and the threat that the U.K. faces from people that promote radical views.
  • Offer practical help to dissuade people from the influence of radical ideology, making sure that they can access appropriate support and advice.
  • Identifying and working with multiple sectors where risks of radicalisation are apparent. These include criminal justice, education, health, online, charities, and faith organisations.

Prevent is there to offer practical help to stop people from being brainwashed by radical materials and propaganda.

How can childcare providers comply with the Prevent duty?

All staff working in early years settings must be vigilant and have a duty to inform the necessary authorities if they suspect a child is being exposed to radicalisation. A Prevent strategy should be devised to bolster safeguarding procedures and ensure that all children in your care are fully protected against extremism.

All managers and leaders have a responsibility to protect children in their care under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. Government common inspection framework states that providers must promote the welfare of children by preventing extremism and radicalisation.

Teacher sat with children implementing the prevent duty

What is radicalisation?

Radicalisation describes a process in which many young or vulnerable individuals are persuaded to adopt extreme views. These views are often opposed to mainstream values and opinions. Otherwise known as ‘brainwashing’, ‘indoctrination’, or ‘training’, the internet has become a breeding ground for creating, publicising, and sharing extremist materials. Therefore, it’s become very easy for young people to be exposed to extreme ideological materials.

Radicalisation often starts with online communications. That said, many offline extremist networks are operating across the U.K. These networks prey on young and vulnerable individuals, actively vocalising their extreme religious, political, or social views.

What are the signs of radicalisation in young children?

Although the signs of radicalisation differ from person to person, it may be a cause for concern if you notice a child:

  • Isolating away from friends and family.
  • Talking as if they are reading from a scripted speech.
  • Being unwilling or unable to discuss their views.
  • Developing a sudden disrespectful attitude towards others.
  • Becoming increasingly angry.
  • Becoming more secretive, especially concerning internet use.

Children who are at increased risk of radicalisation may suffer from low self-esteem, or be victims of discrimination or bullying. Extremists could target them and convince them that they can be part of something special, later brainwashing them into cutting themselves off from their family and friends.

Implementing the Prevent duty in early years settings

To efficiently implement the Prevent duty in a nursery or early years settings, you should:

  • Have clear safeguarding policies and procedures in place, outlining how your staff will identify and manage any risks.
  • Understand your role and responsibilities around protecting young children from extremism.
  • Know how to identify children who are at risk. This could relate to frequent periods of absence or changes in behaviour.
  • Understand when and how to take action once you’ve identified a child who is at risk.
  • Make sure that all staff complete professional training that provides them with up-to-date knowledge on how to identify vulnerable children.

What are early years providers expected to demonstrate concerning the Prevent duty?

If you work in a nursery or provide early years education services, you should be able to:

  • Complete a risk assessment pinpointing any concerns relating to vulnerable children and radicalisation.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the potential risks affecting children in your geographical area.
  • Understand how to identify ‘at-risk’ individuals.
  • Show awareness of the increased risk of online radicalisation.
  • Take appropriate action and refer people to Channel when necessary.
  • Integrate Prevent duties in your nurseries safeguarding policies.
  • Undertake Prevent-awareness training.
  • Apply appropriate content filters on I.T. and internet equipment/software to stop young people from accessing any extremist content.
  • Create a clear strategy that promotes the “British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” in your place of work.
  • Prove that you can effectively teach these values to all children in your care.
  • Provide evidence of how you’ve integrated British principles into your care and teaching practices.

What are the four fundamental British values?

The fundamental British values are a set of values that help to promote welfare and keep children safe. It’s a legal obligation to promote the following values in the work that you do as an early year or nursery educator:

  • Democracy
  • Rule of law
  • Individual liberty
  • Mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths.

These values link to the Prevent duty to establish a moral and ethical framework that instils ideology that opposes many radical beliefs. Put simply; these values can lay the foundations for decent morals and beliefs in the minds of young children, preventing them from the persuasion of radical views. Fundamental British values have been embedded in the Early Years Foundation Syllabus since 2014.

Teacher ensuring she is complying with the prevent duty to safeguard children

How to implement the four British values into nursery and early years education


Consider democracy as a situation in which all people are treated as equals and share equal rights. To apply this principle in your classroom or nursery, you’ll need to evoke conversations around self-awareness, self-confidence and making good choices and decisions. You’ll also want to teach the importance of collaborating, negotiating, and making decisions in groups.

Rule of Law

This is about teaching young children the importance of rules and consequences. It involves discussing how to differentiate right from wrong, how to manage personal feelings and behaviour, defining boundaries, and dealing with consequences.

Each school or nursery will have their own’ house rules’, it’s crucial to ensure all children grasp these rules and understand why they are in place.

Individual Liberty

When discussing individual liberty, it helps to focus on children’s self-awareness and self-confidence. It’s important to discuss liberty in individuals and communities, helping to provide children with a positive perception of themselves.

Teaching the concept of individual liberty involves promoting self-esteem, self-knowledge, and overall confidence in personal abilities. It helps to give children time to reflect on the language of responsibility and feelings, reflecting on differences in understanding, and letting them know that it’s ok to have a different opinion.

Mutual Respect and Tolerance

This value can be taught by explaining to children the importance of treating others as they want to be treated. You should talk about what it means to be part of a community, how to manage feelings and behaviour, and how to form relationships with other people.

It’s essential to help children appreciate and respect their own culture and the culture of other people.

What to do if you have concerns about radicalisation in your nursery or early years organisation

Your Prevent strategy should include safeguarding policies and systems to protect children against radicalisation and extremism. If you have any concerns, you must follow these safeguarding procedures and speak to the designated safeguarding leader within your workplace.

Your entire team should be confident that they can identify risks and implement appropriate action in any case for concern. If you work in a Prevent priority area, there will be a Prevent lead available to provide sufficient support. Once deemed necessary, the safeguarding lead in your organisation will discuss the matter with social services or any other appropriate authorities. Depending on the severity of the matter, they may contact the local police or call the 101 non-emergency services number for advice and support.

Additionally, the Department of Education provides a phone number – 020 7340 7263 – for education professionals that want to raise direct concerns relating to radicalisation.

For non-emergency situations, this email address has been provided:

How do I make sure that everyone is up to date with their Prevent knowledge?

Training is essential when it comes to preparing your team to follow Prevent duty strategy and implementation. Your staff must be confident in identifying risks and taking the appropriate action to protect the children that they look after.

Luckily, there is a wealth of educational material that will provide training and education for all members of your team. Our Prevent and Radicalisation course covers all the necessary information across four units.

We hope that this guide has provided enough valuable information for you to develop a Prevent strategy for your nursery. Remember, it’s a legal obligation to implement awareness training for staff, and teach your children aspects of the ‘Four Fundamental British Values’ as part of your syllabus.

Radicalisation poses a serious threat to the security of Britain and the rest of the world. By providing education and training, spotting the signs of radicalisation, and taking steps to protect vulnerable children, we can prevent the growth of extremism and change the course of young peoples lives.

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About the author

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Marcel Deer

Marcel qualified as a journalist from Liverpool John Moore's University in 2009. After working in PR and digital marketing for five years, he spent two years working as a social media consultant. Since then, he's worked from 15 countries as a remote content writing/marketing expert.

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