One in six people placed on the UK government’s intensive de-radicalisation scheme refuse to co-operate, Home Office figures show.
Some 63 people withdrew from the scheme, known as Channel, in 2015-16 – despite concerns about their ideology.
Figures also suggest a third of all referrals to the wider Prevent counter-extremism programme – 7,631 in 2015-16 – came from the education sector.
Of those referrals, only 381 went on to receive specialist help.
Chief Constable Simon Cole, the national policing lead for Prevent, said the number of referrals showed that “trust and support is growing” for the programme.
Created in 2003, Prevent is designed to support people at risk of joining extremist groups and carrying out terror-related activities.
It is the first time the government has published detailed figures on the initiative.
The Prevent scheme operates in a similar way to social services panels that look at possible cases of abuse.
Every time a case is referred to a local Prevent panel, experts consider the evidence – such as a report from a teacher – and decide whether the individual needs to be steered away from extremist ideology.
The latest figures show that the vast majority of people referred to Prevent required either no official support, or were given help with a problem unrelated to violent extremism.
But 1,072 individuals caused such alarm they were assessed for inclusion in Channel, the government’s intensive de-radicalisation programme.
Of those cases, 381 went on to receive specialist support in an attempt to change their thinking – and 302 were later given the all-clear.
Sixteen of those were still in the process at the time the figures were collated, but a further 63 people withdrew from the scheme – meaning they stopped cooperating with experts mentors altogether.
Security minister Ben Wallace said the Channel scheme was helping to “save lives” and had seen “real results” in helping divert people away from terrorism.
Labour’s Naz Shah, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs committee, said the fact the majority of Islamic extremism referrals required no further action reinforced her concerns about the scheme.
She said: “If you’ve referred a child, a young person, and there turns out to be actually nothing that they’re doing that’s wrong – that’s really worrying for me and it’s very alarming.”
Entire families referred
Just over 2,500 of the referrals to Prevent came from schools, teachers and colleges, followed by almost 2,800 from the police.
Four hundred alerts came from “community” sources and a further 267 from friends and family.
The vast majority of the cases concerned men under 20-years-old – but officials said some referrals related to entire families with children younger than nine years old.
The figures suggest there has been an increase in cases involving under 15s, but officials believe this could be due to a greater awareness among teachers of the potential warning signs.
Home Office officials said academic research indicated that while there had been some initial concerns about “over-zealous” referrals by teachers, they now had a good grasp of which young people needed help.
‘Missing a terrorist’
Dr Usama Hasan, head of Islamic Studies at the counter-extremism organisation Quilliam, said it was not surprising there had been lots of “false” referrals.
She said: “This is a new duty on schools and a lot of teachers are worried that if they miss somebody, they could lose their job for missing a potential terrorist.”
Approximately 65% of the Prevent referrals related to Islamist/jihadist extremism and 10% concerned right-wing extremism.
The remaining cases were either impossible to initially categorise, because the individual was flitting between ideologies, or involved smaller threats relating to Northern Ireland, or Sikh extremism.
The highest number of cases came from London – 1,915 individuals – followed by 1,273 the North East, an area covering Yorkshire to the Scottish border.