Parents and teachers are not telling police about children who may try to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group for fear of criminalising them, a former senior prosecutor has said.
Nazir Afzal said headteachers were “struggling” to offer advice to parents who did not know where to get help.
Two London heads had told him they were “scared” some pupils could flee during the Easter holidays, Mr Afzal said.
More than 500 Britons are believed to have joined IS in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Afzal, who stepped down this week as chief prosecutor for north-west England, said two headteachers had told him that “more than a dozen” parents had approached them since February to express fears about their children being radicalised.
He said the teachers did not know where to send the children or where to direct parents.
“They are worried that some of their children and some of the people they have care over will not be there when they return from the Easter break – and that must worry us all.”
The concerns were “very, very real”, Mr Afzal said, adding that teenagers were being lured by IS propaganda.
“You have got a situation where the boys want to be like them [the militants] and the girls want to be with them.”
He called for an “army of young people and children” to be given training and talk to pupils.
Mr Afzal said “we must do more” to stop children becoming radicalised, comparing the process of radicalisation to sexual grooming.
“In extremist grooming, which is what we are dealing with here, they manipulate them by telling them there is a better place and a better life than what you have at the moment.
“They distance them from their family and friends, and then they take them and make it look like there is some better world that they will go to.”
In February, three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy in east London – Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana – disappeared from their homes and flew to Turkey.
They are believed to have crossed into Syria and joined IS.
It is understood they followed another 15-year-old girl from the same school – since named as Sharmeena Begum – who travelled to Syria in December.
Last month a High Court judge confiscated the passports of four other pupils at the school after concerns were raised by Tower Hamlets Council.
source: BBC NEWS