FRUSTRATION with the system and lack of special school places have been cited as reasons for a surge in home-educated children.

Parents in Oxfordshire are increasingly pulling their children out of school or choosing not to send them there in the first place, and a new report has revealed why.

Oxfordshire County Council’s report, presented at a meeting on Wednesday, showed there are many pupils being taken out of school in Year 5 and Year 9.

It stated: “The reasons for home educating are often multiple and complex.

“There may be a trend emerging at Year 9 where pupils decide to move schools to undertake vocational qualifications that are better suited to their educational needs rather than GCSEs.

“A lack of SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] provision meant that some families felt that they had to home educate for their children’s wellbeing.

“The key message heard from parents and carers was the importance of feeling supported, not judged, by the local authority.”

As reported in the Oxford Mail in December, the number of children being home-schooled in Oxfordshire has inflated in the past few years.

In 2016 there were 460 pupils, which rose to 557 in 2017.

Most parents who responded to the council’s voluntary questionnaire about why they were home-schooling did not give a reason, and those who did largely cited ‘dissatisfaction with the system’.

The new report listed particular areas of the county with concentrated levels of home-schooled children, with Banbury topping the table.

For primary schools in the 2016-17 academic year, both Bladon CE Primary School and Tackley CE Primary School had six pupils withdrawn in favour of home education, the report states - seven per cent of their respective pupil numbers.

The council’s report was based on research carried out by county councillors Michael Waine and Emily Smith, on behalf of its education scrutiny committee.

It said there were ‘presently no SEND places within the county area’ and home-schooling could be preferred over a mainstream setting.

It pointed to ‘comparatively low’ government funding for high-needs pupils in Oxfordshire, and ‘increased demand for special school places’.

The scrutiny committee made 12 recommendations based on the report, including to modify questionnaires so parents are encouraged to give reasons for their decision to home-school.

Mr Waine said: “[The questionnaire] needs to be as user-friendly as possible so information can be teased out.

“The current one give a total let-out of not giving any information, and I think it’s fair to ask the reasons.”

The committee will submit a response to Department for Education consultation about home-schooling, and has asked for more powers.

One of its requests is a policy to force parents to register if they chose to home-school, so the council is aware.

Currently, parents do not have to tell the council if their children are home-schooled, and last year councillors raised concerns about potentially vulnerable children falling under the radar.