COUNCILS in Dorset could be forced to keep a register of children who are being educated outside of mainstream schools under plans being considered by the government.

The move is one measure included in a consultation launched by the Department for Education following a “significant” increase in the number of youngsters being schooled at home in recent years.

Concerns have been raised by councils – including those in Dorset – about the poor quality of education some children are receiving outside of schools.

Figures published at the end of last year showed the number of home-schooled children in Bournemouth had more than doubled compared to four years before.

The trend has been reflected elsewhere in the county, although the increase has been less sharp.

Although there is no requirement on parents to register their children as being educated outside of mainstream schools, almost 250 were recorded in Bournemouth in 2018, compared to about 100 in 2014.

Similar increases have been reported across the country, prompting the government to launch a consultation earlier this week, following a ‘call for evidence’ which took place last year.

Responses were provided by all of Dorset’s top tier councils at the time.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said home education now had a “much broader” meaning than it had had before.

“Whilst this does include those actually getting a really good education at home, it also includes children who are not getting an education at all or being educated in illegal schools where they are vulnerable to dangerous influences – the truth is, we just don’t know.”

“As a government, we have a duty to protect our young people and do our utmost to make sure they are prepared for life in modern Britain.

“That’s why this register of children not in school is so important – not to crack down on those dedicated parents doing an admirable job of educating their children in their own homes, but to prevent vulnerable young people from vanishing under the radar.”

Measures proposed also include requirements for parents and education bodies to inform councils if children are not attending mainstream schools and for councils to provide support if it is requested.

Director of children’s services at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, Judith Ramsden, said: “BCP council will continue to work in partnership with and support parents who opt to home educate their children."

The consultation will run until June 24.