Parents of children as young as nine have reacted angrily after schools in an east London borough asked pupils to complete surveys designed to provide clues to possible radicalisation. Waltham Forest council has been piloting the scheme in five primary schools with large Muslim intakes. The questionnaire, circulated among year 6 pupils, asks how much they trust the police and people from another race or religion.
They are also asked whether they agree that it is acceptable to marry someone from outside their race or religion and whether women are just as good as men at work. Another question asks if the pupils believe their religion is the only correct one. About 22% of the population in Waltham Forest, one of the most deprived local authorities in England, are Muslim.
The programme has been funded with a €500,000 (£360,000) grant from an EU fund – the Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism Programme – designed to “identify the initial seeds of radicalisation with children of primary school age”.
But some parents have complained they were not consulted about the surveys. One parent of an 11-year-old boy at Buxton primary school in Leytonstone, who was asked to complete the questionnaire, said: “This is why we need to get involved with this, otherwise ‘monitoring’ like this goes unchecked and without vetting. No letter was sent home explaining this and I found out just talking to my son.”
Other parents expressed outrage on Twitter. “This is shockingly Orwellian,” one said. “Our kids don’t stand a chance. Guessing there’s going to be a big jump in home schooling.”
A council spokeswoman said concerns had been raised about the survey, especially as pupils had been asked to put their name and other identifying details on the forms. Because the surveys were supposed to have been anonymous, all of those carried out so far may be destroyed.