Head teachers in London are worried that a substantial number of their students could travel to join jihadis in Syria during the Easter break.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal said the heads of two London schools had told him that parents believed more than a dozen teenagers at their schools had been “groomed and seduced” by jihadist groups such as Islamic State. However, the schools have not informed police of their concerns as they do not want students placed under investigation, the Times reports.
Mr Afzal said that one head teacher was being approached on an almost daily basis by parents worried their children might be about to travel to Syria.
“Both [head teachers] said they were scared of the Easter break and would be very relieved if all their pupils came back after the holidays,” he added.
He also said that the two teachers who spoke to him had “no idea what advice to give the parents”.
“They didn’t know what to do. They’re told to direct parents to the police, but the parents don’t want the police to be told and the heads don’t want to criminalise their pupils. They wanted to know why there was no therapeutic, preventative option for these children.”
Mr Afzal, who has led prosecutions for sex-grooming cases against girls in North West England, said that challenging the ideology of Islamism cannot be left solely to the police because “sadly many people in our communities don’t trust the police.”
He compared extremists who indoctrinate teenagers to sexual predators who groom young vulnerable people.
“Isis terrorists are deluded, narcissistic, glory-hunting inadequates who call themselves soldiers, but they’re selling themselves with professionally made videos that make them seem glamorous and sexy . . . Isn’t that what groomers do? They make these kids feel wanted and loved, they tell them they understand them and they distance them from their friends and family.”
An estimated 600 British nationals have joined Islamic State since 2013, with many of them being teenagers and people in their early 20s. In February, three girls from the same school in London fled to Syria after travelling to Turkey without telling their parents.