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
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:
A desire to home educate while making
use of school for some subjects
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
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
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
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
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: