A jump in the number of children being homeschooled has led councillors to raise concerns over their learning and safety.

The number of families choosing to teach their children at home in Barnet more than doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic, from around 204 in July last year to 435 in January, according to a Barnet Council report.

Presented to the children, education and safeguarding committee on Monday, the report reveals the council is updating its policy on home education to build better relationships with home educators and protect the interests of children.

The legal responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents, meaning they can choose to teach their children at home.

At the same time, local authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

But the council report says elective home education may make it possible for parents to prevent the independent oversight of children who are being harmed and neglected.

Councils can intervene if they have reason to believe a child is not in receipt of a suitable and efficient education and enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern.

The report reveals several national safeguarding reviews have highlighted the increased risk of abuse and neglect to some children who are electively home educated.

It adds that while most parents are “committed homeschoolers”, there is also “a minority of parents who homeschool with nefarious intent to conceal abuse and neglect”.

Ian Harrison, Barnet’s education and skills director, told the meeting the council’s new policy followed the guidance from the Department for Education very closely.

He added that the council had tried to tighten up reporting requirements by schools when a child leaves and improve information sharing between schools and elective home educators.

But Cllr Nagus Narenthira (Labour, Colindale) said her major concern was that a parent did not have to register with the council when their child was home educated.

She said that if a child never attended school, the system “would not know the child, so if there are any safeguarding issues, if there is any danger to the child, we would not know”.

Cllr Narenthira also warned over a lack of data regarding the outcomes for children who are home educated, meaning the council “can’t assess that the education has taken place properly”.

Labour councillors tabled a motion calling on the committee to write to the Government to ask that parents who decide to educate their children at home register their intent to do so with councils.

Their motion also called on the Government for more clarity over what is considered a suitable education for those taught at home.

The motion gained the unanimous support of the committee, which also voted to approve the council’s draft elective home education policy. The policy will go out to consultation with stakeholders during June and July.