We get asked a lot if flexi schooling is 'legal' and the simple answer is yes.
We also hear from a lot of parents that their school have said that they will be marked as absent and that this will go against their child's record. It is true that in some situations if a family part attend school and part attend at home, absent (authorised and therefore legal so no consequence by law) codes are used in the register. However, the department of education (DFE) accept that pupils may be allowed to access specialist off-site education on a part-time basis whilst still keeping their place at their mainstream school.
Schools do have the authority to arrange for pupils to undertake part of their education outside the school premises in accordance with regulation 6(4)(a) of The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. The session absent from school can be marked in the register as ‘Code B – Educated Offsite’ meaning the School’s OFSTED ratings remain unaffected and full pupil funding is still received.
At The Bridge Flexi School and our sister team NETwork Interventions we are very happy to liaise with schools to ensure they are totally satisfied with the individualised education being offered as well as our safeguarding measures. We form excellent relationships with schools and local authorities as well the families that we work with. Sometimes we are called in by schools as they cannot meet the needs of the child at the school. They will use part of the child’s funding for our services. In other situations a family will engage us. In lots of situations we are included directly in an EHCP.
The responsibility to ensure that a child receives full-time education while he or she is of statutory school age lies with the parent/ carer with parental responsibility.
The 1996 Education Act states that the parent/carer of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him or her to receive efficient fulltime education suitable to his or her age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he or she may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Some parents/carers may decide to provide a suitable education by educating their children at home, rather than seeking to enrol their child at a school. This is known as Home schooling or Elective Home Education and is where the parent/carer takes full responsibility for the education of the child.
Flexi-schooling is not the same as Home schooling. Parents/carers who request flexible attendance are asking for a pattern of provision which will involve both attendance at school as well as times when the child will receive educational provision at home.
Flexi-schooling is also different from temporary part-time attendance arrangements which the school/parent/carer may seek to make. Such arrangements are monitored and reviewed with the intention that the child be returned to full-time attendance as soon as possible. Although provision may be split, flexi –schooling is full-time.
Arrangements for Flexi-schooling can only be made at the request of a parent or carer with parental responsibility. This is not an arrangement which can be initiated by a school.
Is flexi-schooling legal?
While there is an absolute right both to school placement and to Elective Home Education, there is no right to flexi-schooling; Head teachers may refuse to agree to requests. There is no specific appeal against the decision of a Head teacher not to agree to a flexi-schooling request.
Recording flexi-schooling on attendance registers
Schools must mark the register code C (authorised absence) where pupils are home educated during school hours. The GOV.UK web page containing the Home Education Guidelines says "Pupils who are being flexi-schooled should be marked as absent from school during the periods when they are receiving home education."
How should a request for flexi-schooling be made?
If a parent/carer is interested in making such a request, the Head teacher of the child’sactual or prospective school should be contacted so that the proposal may be considered. Children who attend part-time under a flexi-schooling arrangement are subject to the same school admission processes as other children and are counted in the same way as a child who attends full-time for the purposes of the infant class size regulations.
Ultimately it will be the decision of the Head teacher as to whether he or she is willing to enter into an agreement with the parent/carer. The governing body may be involved in agreeing and reviewing a general approach to requests for flexi-schooling but this does not exempt the Head teacher from the need to consider each request individually. The whole governing body should not become involved in individual cases and cannot overturn a Headteacher’s decision. However the governing body will have a clearly defined role if a complaint is made.
What should parents/carers consider?
The implications of making partial educational provision at home are significant, both in terms of expertise and resources and in the commitment to make a shared provision work. The education provided at home and at school should together constitute full- time.
While there is no statutory curriculum for the home education part of a flexi-schooling arrangement, parents/carers will need to be mindful of the impact on the child’s access to the National (or Academy) Curriculum and the possible fragmentation of the learning experience.
Flexi-schooling is unlikely to be successful if the reasons for choosing it are negative and the choice is motivated by the desire to avoid difficulties around certain subjects, teachers, peers, aspects of school discipline or attendance itself.
Flexi-schooling does not give an alternative means of opting out of an element of the curriculum with which a child, for whatever reason, is uncomfortable.
If the child moves to a different school, there will be no guarantee that flexi-schooling will be able to continue. This will be a decision for the new Head teacher.
The agreement with parents/carers
In all cases where flexi-schooling is agreed, it is recommended that the school has a written agreement with the parents/carers so that expectations and arrangements are clear for both parties. Such an agreement is likely to include:
The normal expected pattern of attendance at school.
Procedures for flexibility around special events which fall outside the normal
How the register will be marked.
That the school will follow up any unexpected or unexplained absence in the same way
as it does for other children.
Arrangements at times of assessment.
Agreement that if a parent/carer chooses to employ other people to educate their child
at home, they will be responsible for making sure that those whom they engage are
suitable to have access to children.
Details of any perceived special educational needs and associated provision.
Arrangements for regular planning and review meetings between parent/carer and
school to ensure the child achieves his/her potential and to promote good home-school
Clarity about the circumstances under which, and with what notice, either party can
withdraw from the arrangement.
The arrangements for the resolution of any disputes (usual processes are for disputes to
be resolved at the most informal level possible, but ultimately any complaints will need to be considered by the Head teacher first and then the governing body as set out under the school’s complaints procedures).