More than 300 people under the age of 18 were referred to the UK government's deradicalisation scheme this summer, new figures reveal.
The data, released on Thursday following a freedom of information request by the Press Association, show a dramatic rise in referrals to the counter-extremism scheme known as Channel.
Between June and August, 796 people were referred for possible intervention – more than for the whole of 2012-13. Of those, 312 were under 18.
The figures, released by the National Police Chiefs' Council, suggest that a large number of referrals came from schools. In June there were 327 referrals, and July saw 349. However, in August, when most schools in England and Wales are closed for the summer holiday, there were only 120 referrals.
Neither the details of specific cases nor the guidelines for how individuals are referred to Channel have been released.
However, a number of cases have made it into the public domain, including a 14-year-old boy who was referred after talking about "eco-terrorism" in school, and a university student who was questioned by counter-terrorism officers when he was reading a book about terrorism for his course.
Channel, a key component of the government's counter-terrorism strategy, aims to "provide support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into all forms of terrorism".
Official guidance states that it is "about ensuring that vulnerable children and adults of any faith, ethnicity or background receive support before their vulnerabilities are exploited by those that would want them to embrace terrorism".
In July, new rules were introduced by the government, known as the "Prevent duty", which mandates public sector workers, including state school teachers, to intervene if they suspect a person may be vulnerable to terrorist activities.
Critics of the policy argue it may be overreaching, and that without specific guidance over what constitutes extremism, many young people may be referred for activities that have little to do with terrorism or violence.
"What needs to be questioned is the security lens that public sector workers are forced to use and refer Prevent- and Channel-related cases," Saghir Hussain, a solicitor that works on Prevent cases, told BuzzFeed News.
"There is a worrying trend where cases have been referred for opposing government stances on banning halal meat, reading certain books, and refusing to play music for religious reasons. Such cases do not amount to extremism."
Hussein Kesvani is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hussein Kesvani at Hussein.Kesvani@BuzzFeed.com.
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