THE number of children being ‘home educated’ in Hertfordshire has increased “substantially” in recent years.

Conservative councillor Jeff Jones asked for the figures to given to Hertfordshire County Council’s education, libraries and localism cabinet panel this week.

Any parent or guardian can choose to educate their child – or children – at home, so long as they provide full-time education that is appropriate to the child’s age, ability and aptitude.

The panel heard on Wednesday that five years ago there were around 400 children educated at home, in Hertfordshire, but it has since risen to almost 1,500.

For the most part, they were told, the decision reflected the particular philosophical views of their parents.

But now, they were told, the reasons for home education could be much broader.

Failure to get a place at a preferred school, behavioural problems, special educational needs or the breakdown in relationship between parents and a school were increasingly likely to lead to home education.

When asked about the numbers being home-educated, the county council’s operations director (education) Simon Newland said: “It’s just under 1,500 – but it has increased substantially over the past four or five years.

“Some years ago it was around 400 – a group of parents with a particular philosophical views , who wanted to educate their children at home.

“The reasons for the increase are multiple. For some parents it’s as simple as they don’t get the school they wanted to get.

“More often children have had difficulty settling in school – sometimes it’s special educational needs or behavioural problems or a breakdown in the relationship between the parents and the school.

“These problems are more prevalent than they were four or five years ago.”

Mr Newland said the main issue for the authority was that they are required to know when children were being educated at home – but not the quality of education those children receive.

And he said this was something that the Department for Education was now considering nationally.

The issue was raised at the meeting of the cabinet panel by , who asked for information on the numbers who were opting to home educate.

And Mr Newland committed to bring further information to a future meeting of the cabinet panel detailing the support the council can give to home-educating parents and ways to help their children back in to mainstream, which he said, “is where the quality of education will be best”.

Meanwhile executive member for education, libraries and localism  Cllr  Terry Douris pointed to a survey where home educators were asked to give their reasons – but he said half declined to say why.