Flexischooling FAQ

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What is Flexi Schooling?

Flexi Schooling describes an arrangement between the parents and school where children are registered at the school in the usual way but, by arrangement with the school are educated both at school and away from the premises under the supervision of the parents.

Is flexischooling the same as Home Education?

Not quite. Elective home education is where children are not registered at any school, with flexischooling the children, obviously, remains registered. This means the child is still subject to all the rules that other school children and their families are subject to (see below). Flexischooled children will need to take SATs and follow the school curriculum, particularly the national curriculum if in a state school. Although, there is flexibility with respect to what is taught and how it is taught when the children are not in school.

Why do families opt for Flexischooling

There may be any of number of reasons why parents may want to arrange flexi schooling for their children, for example:

  • Illness
  • A desire to home educate while making use of school for some subjects
  • school Phobia/refusal
  • Allowing time for a special ability, such as music, sport etc.
  • A staged return to school after an absence for some reason

Whatever the reason, neither local authorities nor schools are likely to agree to such arrangements unless it is clear that it is in the child’s best interests.

Is flexischooling a right?

No, families can only flexischool with the permission of the proprietor of the school, normally that is the Head Teacher. There is no appeal on the head teachers decision.

The Legal Position

Flexischooling is not part time education, which would be illegal in the UK where all children of CSA must receive a suitable, full time education. Flexischooling is always by agreement with the school and the child receives a full time education, partly on the school premises and partly elsewhere under the supervision and care of their parents. It is an offence for a parent to fail to ensure that a child of compulsory school age regularly attends the school at which s/he is registered. However, Flexi schooling is legal providing the parent is able to obtain the agreement of the head teacher of the school at which their child is registered. The Education Act 1996 states:

"The child shall not be taken to have failed to attend regularly at the school by reason of his absence from the school (a) with leave" Section 444 (3)

The term ‘leave' is defined as:

"In this section 'leave', in relation to a school, means leave granted by any person authorised to do so by the governing body or proprietor of the school." Section 444(9)

In practice this normally refers to the Head teacher. To arrange flexi schooling therefore you should prepare a proposal and set up a meeting with the head teacher. Whether or not it is allowed is entirely up to the head teachers discretion. The head teacher will probably want to discuss the proposal with his/her senior staff, form teacher and possibly the school governors. The Head will probably contact the LA for their opinion as the head teacher may not have previously encountered flexi-schooling and will want to discuss the legal implications.

Your proposal should address the following:

  • As the child will be in your care and absent from school there are no insurance implications for the school, 
  • In what ways flexi schooling is in the best interests of the child 
  • How you see the arrangement working in practice 
  • How you intend to ensure that your child will not miss out both educationally and socially

The responsibility to ensure that the child is receiving a full time education remains, as always, with the parent. Though the LA may want to ensure itself that the child's education is suitable to the child's age ability and aptitude and any special needs s/he may have (as per section 7 of the education Act 1996).

Best interests and welfare of the child.

s175 of the Education Act 2002 states:

    1. A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred on them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
    2. The governing body of a maintained school shall make arrangements for ensuring that their functions relating to the conduct of the school are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children who are pupils at the school.

This section has wide implications and, basically means that the school and LA must look at the wider picture rather than just the child’s education. If there is a case for allowing flexi schooling, in the best interests of the child’s welfare, then both the LA and school must consider it.

Advantages

If it can be made to work, flexi schooling can allow all kinds of advantages for parent and child. It can mean that a child has access to resources either difficult or impossible to access from home and allow participation in sports activities as well as accessing specialist tuition that the family may not be able to offer. It can also enable the parent responsible for education to take part time work outside the home. Primarily it offers a highly flexible education, responsive to the child’s individual needs and interests enabling the family to respond to opportunities as they arise in a way that schools would, at best, find challenging.

Problems

There are a number of problems commonly encountered by parents attempting to arrange Flexi schooling for their child:
    • SAT's - Regardless of any flexi schooling arrangements if a child is registered at a school the child's SAT's results must be undertaken. Should the child not take the SAT's test then the school scores zero in all the tests the child fails to take. This is a disincentive for the school (particularly a small school) to make such arrangements. If you agree to the child attending the SAT's tests, then the school may be fearful that the child will score poorly again effecting the schools league table position. This issue must also be considered, and a solution found that works for all parties.
    • The same as above applies to GCSE's. If the child is not intending to take a number of GCSE's the school may decide that this will damage their league table position and be reluctant to allow flexischooling.
    • Discipline - schools sometimes anticipate there being discipline problems should one child be seen by other pupils failing to attend lessons s/he doesn't want to attend. The school may anticipate further requests or demands for this arrangement.
    • The LA will often not approve of the idea. While formally the school is charged with the responsibility for deciding on whether to allow a flexi schooling arrangement the head teacher will often consult the LA. Ultimately the head teacher may decide that s/he does not want to antagonise the LA - who is after all their employer.
    • Many school Head Teachers see Flexi schooling as a temporary arrangement as part of a staged return to school following some difficulty like school refusal (school phobia), a death in the family or an illness. They seem to fail to understand that, even when explicitly discussed, some families really do prefer home education/flexischooling to full time school and will continue to do so into the future.
    • A number of schools resist agreeing to flexi schooling arrangements claiming that there are insurance problems particularly public liability insurance. This is a totally untrue. A child on authorised leave is the responsibility of the parent and not in the care of the school and thus not subject to the school insurance liability.
    • New Advice from the DfE indicates that the DfE now believes Flexischooling to be illegal. However, this guidance was revised without consultation, contrary to civil service guidance.

How popular is Flexischooling?

Flexischooling has been around for some time. It was promoted by Roland Meighan back in the 1990s and HE UK web site carried an article about it from 2000. The DfE quoted from that page from 2003 in their guidance to home educators. Since then it has grown but not really taken off in the way that home education has. Although recently, (around 2015) CPE has offered assistance flexischooling has started to grow in popularity.

The publication of CPE's Flexischooling Handbook (published by EHP 201) has given it something of a further boost. The problem was that legal guidance was difficult to find. Head teachers could refuse to consider it, without giving a reason and local authorities were, and largely remain, ill informed about it. Despite these issues, by the end of 2019, the network knew of more than 60 schools supporting at least one child being flexischooled. With about one third of those with multiple children being flexischooled.

Some, remote, rural schools had realised that by highlighting flexischooling as an option attracted parents from a wider area often staving off the threat of closure while enabling expansion without major capital outlay. This is good for the school, the local community and all the children attending the school. Another driving force for flexischooling is the lack of adequate funding for SEN children.

Schools have been placed under tremendous pressure to perform while being starved of funding. This has led a number of schools to off-role children with special needs, particularly those waiting for assessments. Other schools have chosen to allow flexischooling as a way of addressing this problem. This appears to be a popular option among some parents while others see it as the best option among several poor choices.

What to do next?

I would strongly advise anyone considering flexischooling to join the support forum below.

A longer, fuller examination of flexischooling can be found in the book:

Link to flexischooling book

 

A Support forum for Flexischooling

 

UK Flexischool Map

 

A comprehensive list of other support forums.

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