The number of children being home educated has risen by about 27 per cent in the last year, new research suggests.
More than two thirds (106) of local authorities responded to the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) survey, which found that around 57,800 children and young people were known to be home educated in 2018.
That was up from 45,500 in 2017 and 37,500 in 2016. The association says the known home-schooled cohort has risen by an average of 20 per cent a year since 2013.
There are fears that home education is rising because of schools informally and illegally "off-rolling" pupils – suggesting that children may be better off at home even if parents are not equipped to educate them
But the association notes that the rise could also partly be caused by a greater awareness of home education, rising birth rates and improved recording by local authorities.
Local authorities reported significant in-year variations with nearly 80,000 children and young people being home schooled at some point during 2017-18. The majority of respondents reported that more than 80 per cent of their known cohort had previously attended school.
Debbie Barnes, ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee chair, said: "Education is a fundamental right for all children and young people and we absolutely recognise that parents have the right to educate their children at home.
"However, if the learning experience provided in the home does not meet children’s needs, when schools are using home schooling as a means to illegally exclude children with special educational or behavioural needs, when parents use home schooling as a means to avoid attendance fines or as a cover to send their children to illegal schools, that’s when we worry."
She added: “We know from our survey that the numbers of children being home educated have increased year on year for the past five years, this is only the children that we know of. There are likely to be many more children being home educated who are hidden from sight."