HUNDERDS of children were home schooled in Southend last year, new figures reveal.

The Association of School and College Leaders says it is concerned by a national rise in the number of home-educated children, and that young people are better off at school.

Data from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) shows that 219 children in Southend were recorded by the council as being home-educated at the end of March 2019​.

​This was a 28 per cent increase from 171 at the same point in the previous year.

Across England as a whole, a 15 per cent rise meant more than 60,500 children were registered as home-schooled in March last year.

The OSA, which works with the Department for Education on school admissions, said in its annual report that the figure was likely to be higher in reality, as parents do not have to register their children as home-educated.

Shan Scott, the government body’s chief adjudicator, said that more than 100 councils expressed concerns that some parents who opt for home education may not be able to meet their child's needs.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it is important to bear in mind that home education remains rare across England.

He said: “Nevertheless, it is concerning to see that the number of children in home education has risen because it is our view that young people are best served by attending a school.

“It suggests that in a small number of cases, the relationship between the parent and school has broken down, and this may have been exacerbated by the severe pressure which currently exists on schools and pupils.

“Schools have had to make significant budget cuts, which have affected the extent of the support that they are able to provide to children with additional needs, and this may have led to unhappiness among some families.”

Councillor Judith Blake, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) children and young people board, said: “We know that most children get a good education at home and fully support parents' rights to home-educate their children.

“In a minority of cases where home-schooled children are not receiving a suitable education or being educated in a safe environment, councils need the powers and appropriate funding to enter homes or other premises to speak to children and check their schooling."

The LGA has also repeated its call for the government to require parents to register their child with their local authority if they are home-schooled, so that councils know where they are.

A Department of Education (DfE) spokesman said the department was looking into ways to make it easier for vulnerable pupils to access a school place when they need one.

He added that the DfE “will use the findings of this report to ensure the school admissions system continues to help deliver good school places for even more pupils and parents”.