CALLS are mounting for fresh legislation to ensure home educated children are not suffering abuse and are being properly educated.

Darlington Borough Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee heard while some children do not have access to some of the fundamental safeguards that going to school gives, the local authority has no statutory powers to enter homes to enquire into education being provided without the agreement of parents.

However, the council is required to ensure effective safeguarding mechanisms are in place.

Children’s charities said youngsters who do not attend school can become hidden, meaning authorities are less able to help and protect them. Some of these children may experience risks within their family, such as abuse and neglect. There may also be risks outside their family, such as radicalisation or exploitation.

The meeting was told concerns over the issue were being fuelled across the country, which has seen a 40 per cent rise in home schooled children in the last three years.

In Darlington there were 193 home educated children in 2018/19 and government figures show almost 53,000 children in England were home educated in the academic year of 2017/18.

Presenting Darlington Safeguarding Children’s Board’s annual report, its chair Ann Baxter told the meeting the issue was being “grasped very closely” in the borough, which has a dedicated home education officer who offers home visits to check suitable education is in place. When the officer is unable to check home schooling, concerns are flagged up to a monitoring group which includes police, council and health officers.

Jane Kochanowski, the council’s assistant director of children’s services, said children who were not in school and had been identified as vulnerable were being regularly monitored by a panel, but its duty to visit home educated children was limited to once annually.

She said: “We don’t think that’s effective so we visit more regularly. It is really an emerging issue around the safeguarding of young people.”

The council’s children and young people’s portfolio holder, Councillor Paul Crudass said it was important that the authority had recognised the issue which the council and police were tackling. He said extra funding and fresh legislation would help authorities better fulfill their duties.