Flexi Schooling describes an arrangement between the parent and school where children are registered at the school in the usual way but attend school on a part time basis. For the rest of the time, the child is educated at home or somewhere of the parents choice. The number of children educated under flexi-schooling arrangements is growing rapidly, and there are now a number of schools up and down the UK which could be described as specialising as flexi schools.
There are a number of reasons why parents may wish 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· many children suffer from Anxiety, ASD, autism, ODD and other neurological conditions, which makes the school environment a challenge
- Other curricular activities – Allowing time for a special ability, such as music, sport, drama, dance, financial literacy not taught in the school environment
- A staged/ staggered 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”.
The Legal Position: 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 arrange 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:” ‘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, it is usually the Head teacher of your child’s school to arrange flexi schooling , therefore you should prepare a robust 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 Local Authority for their opinion as the head teacher may not have previously encountered flexi-schooling and will want to discuss the legal implications. However with the current climate of COVID-19 more and more parents are seeking this option for their child and family, especially parents of children from the African & Caribbean community. With the high risk to people of this background contracting COVID, Those in the diaspora are still awaiting government guidelines specific to the needs of Black students to ensure even more protection is being put in place.
What are the different types of exclusion?
is for a specific period of time. A pupil may be excluded for one or more fixed periods (up to a maximum of 45 school days in a single academic year). In exceptional cases, usually where further evidence has come to light, a fixed period exclusion may be extended or converted to a permanent exclusion.
Pupils whose lunchtime behaviour is disruptive may be excluded from the school premises for the duration of the lunchtime period. An exclusion that takes place over a lunchtime would be counted as half a school day. The legal requirements relating to exclusion, such as the head teacher’s duty to notify parents, apply in all cases.
involves the child being removed from the school roll. However, the head teacher must not remove a pupil’s name from the school Admissions Register until the outcome of the Independent Review Panel (if this route is followed by parents).
In what circumstances can a child be excluded?
A pupil must only be excluded on disciplinary grounds. The decision to exclude must be:
The behaviour of pupils outside of school can be considered as grounds for exclusion. The school’s behaviour policy will set out when a pupil’s behaviour outside of school premises may lead to disciplinary sanctions.
A decision to exclude a pupil permanently should only be taken:
“in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school”.
When reaching the decision to exclude a child, the head teacher must apply the civil standard of proof, i.e. ‘on the balance of probabilities’, which means it is more likely than not that a fact is true.
Under the Equality Act 2010 schools must not discriminate against, harass or victimise pupils because of their:
- religion or belief;
- sexual orientation;
- because of a pregnancy / maternity; or
- because of a gender reassignment.
For disabled children, this includes a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to policies and practices.
It is unlawful to exclude or to increase the severity of an exclusion for a non-disciplinary reason. For example, it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet. It would also be unlawful to exclude for a reason such as:
- academic attainment / ability;
- the action of a pupil’s parents;
- the failure of a pupil to meet specific conditions before they are reinstated such as attend a reintegration meeting.
However a head teacher could lawfully exclude a child for:
- repeated failure to follow academic instruction;
- failure to complete a behavioural sanction, e.g. a detention (a decision to change the sanction to exclusion would not automatically be unlawful);
- repeated and persistent breaches of the school’s behavioural policy. Even if the offence that has immediately led to the exclusion would not have normally constituted a serious enough breach on its own, a child can still be excluded if it is part of wider pattern of behaviour.
These duties need to be taken into account when deciding whether to exclude a pupil.
Formally arranged part-time timetables may be necessary as a temporary measure in exceptional circumstances to meet a pupil’s needs, but must not be used as a disciplinary sanction or as a long term solution.
What are the factors a head teacher should consider before deciding to exclude?
The decision on whether to exclude is for a head teacher to take. Pupils should be given an opportunity to present their case before a decision is made.
When considering whether to exclude, head teachers should take account of any contributing factors identified after an incident of poor behaviour has occurred – for example, where it comes to light that a pupil has suffered bereavement, has mental health issues or has been subject to bullying.
The Statutory Guidance is clear that early intervention should be used to address underlying causes of disruptive behaviour. This should include:
- an assessment of whether appropriate support is in place to support any special educational needs or disability that a pupil may have;
- the use of a multi-agency assessment for pupils who demonstrate persistent disruptive behaviour.
Where a pupil has received multiple exclusions or is approaching the legal limit of 45 school days of fixed period exclusions in an academic year, head teachers should consider whether exclusion is providing an effective sanction.
Section 175 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 however has wide implications and, basically means that the school and LA must look at the wider picture 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.
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.
Describe in what ways flexi schooling is in the best interests of the child ·
How you see the arrangement working in practice make it clear how the home school balance will look
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). 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
school and allow participation in sports activities as well as accessing specialist tuition that in the current climate with cuts to education the school 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 & funding rather than the mental health and well being of the child.
This issue must also be considered, and a solution found that works for all parties especially the child.
- The same as the above applies to GCSE’s & league tables. 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 funding.
- Discipline -schools sometimes anticipate there being discipline problems should one child be seen by other pupils failing to attend lessons s/he does not want to attend. The school may anticipate further requests or demands for flexi schooling arrangements by parents.
- The Local Authority will often, not approve of the idea, this we have found is more to do with the ignorance around Flexi schooling rather than it not working well for both the school and family. 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 Local Authority. Ultimately the head teacher may decide that s/he does not want to antagonise the local authority with requests.
- Many school Head Teachers see Flexi schooling as part of a process of a staged return to school following some difficulty like school refusal (school phobia), they seem to fail to understand, even when explicitly discussed with heads that some families really do prefer home education to full time school and will continue to do so into the future.
- A number of schools resist agreeing to flexi schooling arrangements by claiming that there are insurance problems particularly public liability insurance. This is a totally invalid claim, if the child is on authorised leave the child is the responsibility of the parent and not the school and is therefore not in the care of the school and thus not subject to the school insurance liability.
- Some head teachers see these arrangements as a temporary measure, expecting the child to return to full time education after a term or two, even where the parents have specifically stated that they are intending it to be a long term arrangement because it is benefiting the child’s needs.