Flexischooling is an arrangement between the parents and head teacher
of the school at which their children are registered, whereby their
education occurs both at school and offsite. The time offsite can
be used for a variety of activities depending upon the needs of the
child and his or her circumstances and by agreement with the school.
Schools can use a “B” code in the register for a child during the
off-site sessions as the requirements prescribed in regulation 6(4)
of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006
can be met and school attendance figures are unaffected. Nor is insurance
or safeguarding during the session an issue since children are in
the care of their parents.
Many parents are beginning to consider the implications of their
children not physically attending school. If the current situation
continues until September 2020, this could mean children will not
have physically entered school for more than five months.
We already know that children who undergo trauma and personal difficulties
which lead to extended time away from school frequently suffer
anxiety upon return which can lead to anxiety, school refusing
behaviour and a lasting decline in their mental health. In addition
to which, due to the current crisis, many children will witness
trauma in their personal lives, particularly the deaths of close
relatives and friends. Even where children have not suffered personally
in this way, many will have experienced distressing items on TV,
radio and internet news.
We also know that prior to this crisis,
children’s mental health professionals working for CAMHS were very
pressed. Waiting lists of upwards of three years are not unheard
of in some areas and shortages of appropriately qualified mental
health professionals are common in local CAMHS teams.
Without CAMHS endorsement, parents who fail to ensure their child’s
regular attendance are subject to fines for truancy; yet clearly
CAMHS will be unable to deal with the expected avalanche of referrals
we expect from September. Unless action is taken, we believe parents
will be placed under intolerable pressure to return children suffering
mental health issues to school, thus adding to their distress.
This cannot be in the best interests of children’s welfare. In
order to prevent such a crisis developing from September 2020,
the government needs to act.
We think that parents need some level of protection against truancy
fines, and all children need the option of a phased return to school.
Flexischooling appears to us to be a necessary part of any strategy
to address this issue.
Regardless of attendance at school, parents
of all children remain responsible for providing an education suitable
to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and any special needs they
may have (S7 Education Act 1996). Therefore, flexischooling is not
an excuse to do nothing in the sessions where the child is not at school.
Currently parents need permission
from the head teacher to flexischool. While some schools happily
agree to it, many schools and LAs are known to routinely refuse
Parents requests to flexischool. We think this will continue to
be the case in some areas.
We think that overly
cautious head teachers refusing requests often flout already existing
legislation such as s175(2) of the Education act 2002, which requires
head teachers of maintained schools to treat welfare as the paramount
concern. We therefore think that further regulatory action on this
A guide to flexischooling in England & Wales
Where flexischooling is allowed, many children are doing very well.
It is practiced for many reasons, often for children with a range
of SENDs, including autism spectrum and social anxiety disorders.
Some children have physical disabilities which make full school
place attendance challenging. Others have out of school interests,
such as sport, music etc. Such children benefit enormously from
accessing specialist tuition in normal school hours, tuition that
schools simply can’t provide.
Flexischooling should not be seen
as a soft option. It is in fact an excellent way for parents to
meet their obligation in law to provide an education suitable for
their individual child. We think regulatory change is NECESSARY
to protect hard pressed parents of children at risk of mental health
decline due to the current crisis from being prosecuted.
We also think it would be a simple matter to introduce systems
to safeguard at risk children by involving the child’s social workers,
where they have them, in decisions regarding such children.
Similarly, it should be considered whether children who have had
police involvement in their lives, such as being prosecuted, receiving
a Police Caution or ASBO etc, or where there would have been police
involvement, had their age permitted it, might pose a risk to themselves
or the community were they to be flexischooled.
We propose that where there are no safeguarding or criminal issues
which would make it unsafe for the child or community, parents
should be allowed to flexischool for at least one day per week
if they request it.
Flexischooling for more than that each week would remain at the
discretion of the head teacher, as is currently the case. We see
this as lasting for at least a school year, from September 2020
through to July 2021 and the policy should be reviewed at this
time to assess whether continuing is beneficial.
In conclusion, we think now is the time for action, since children
and parents are already starting to voice concern. Children’s anxieties
need to be allayed so as not to add further concerns to an already
very difficult situation.