INVISIBLE children are being put at risk by a lack of checks on their lives, according to the head of children’s services in Southend.

There are 250 registered as home schooled but could be hundreds more, known as the “invisible population” not registered.

John O’Loughlin, director of children’s services at Southend Council, said: “It is a huge safeguarding area of concern up and down the country and parents are not obliged to inform us if they are educating children at home. It is a bit of an invisible population.

“It is a significant issue. Nowhere else are children as invisible as children that are electively educated at home and we do try where possible to encourage parents to take up options at their local schools.”

Director of learning Brin Martin added: “As long as it is not a compulsory requirement for a parent to register, a parent can quite legitimately determine they do not wish to register their home education presence with the local authority and therefore they become unsighted and unknown.”

Former Southend teacher, Carly Lawrence, 35, of Hadleigh, said that many parents are home schooling their children due to the pressure placed on children to perform in exams.

She said: “Children are treated more as a statistic than a child. My son is in year one and pressure is already being put on him for SATs in a year’s time. The teachers and schools are brilliant but there is pressure from the Government and local authorities to get good figures to make sure the schools look good.

“From the people I have spoken to about home schooling, many of their children were on the Special Educational Needs (SEN) register and weren’t getting enough support in classrooms. A friend of mine had also considered it due to her daughter being severely bullied and the school had failed to deal with it.

“If mandatory registration was introduced it would be good if it meant offering funding for families and being provided help, but I think some will be worried they will be monitored as they are in a school. Their child could become another statistic on a different register.”

Last week, the Government announced it was considering a mandatory register of all children being educated at home, as well as measures that will require local authorities to provide assistance in the form of paying exam costs.