More than 7,500 people were referred to the government in 2015/16 over concerns they were vulnerable to terrorist influence, with a majority of the referrals coming from schools and other educational institutions.

According to figures released for the first time, 7,631 individuals were referred to Prevent – the government's anti-extremism programme – with the education sector making 2,539 referrals (33%), followed by the 2,377 from the police (31%).

Of the 4,997 individuals referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism, the largest proportion were aged under 15.

The Home Office revealed that of the total 7,361 referrals, 2,766 required no further action, 3,793 were signposted to alternative services and 1,072 were deemed suitable to receive specialist support via the Channel panel.

The Channel scheme is a voluntary programme aimed at safeguarding people who have been identified as being at potential risk to be drawn into terrorism. The specialist support involves partners from the local authority, the police, education figures and health providers.

The Home Office said referring possible cases of early stage radicalisation works in a similar way to safeguarding processes designed to protect people from gang activity, drugs and physical and sexual abuse.

According to the figures, of the 7,631 referred to Prevent, 381 – around 5% – went on to receive support on the Channel scheme.

Of these, 365 subsequently left the process, and 16 are currently still receiving Channel support. Of those who have left the Channel process, 302 did so with their vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism judged as having been "successfully reduced".

The remaining 63 individuals withdrew from the Channel process, although in some cases still received additional support from other services.

Of the 1,072 individuals discussed at a Channel panel, 819 (76%) related to concerns over Islamic extremism, with 264 eventually going on to receive Channel support.

A terrorist
A majority of the concerns that individuals are being drawn into terrorism are made by schools and colleges iStock

Elsewhere, 189 were referred for concerns related to right-wing extremism (18%) and this proportion increased for the 381 individuals who received Channel support (99; 26%).

Of the 264 individuals who received Channel support for Islamist-related concerns, the largest proportion were aged 15 to 20 (110; 42%). This was the same for the 99 individuals who received Channel support for concerns related to right wing extremism (47; 47% aged 15 to 20)

Responding to the figures, security minister Ben Wallace said: "At its heart, the Prevent programme is just one of a number of ways to safeguard vulnerable people from exploitation.

"The voluntary Channel scheme has seen real results in helping divert people away from terrorism and violence. The programme is helping to save lives and keep us safe.

"The Government has been determined to bring greater transparency to the programme and I am delighted that by publishing these figures we can help inform the debate around the policy.

"There is still a way to go to improve the approach and awareness of how to better safeguard our children and vulnerable adults, but the policy is going in the right direction."