1 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.
2 why do we need flexischooling rights?
Despite the fact that s7 of the Education act 1996 clearly says that education is always the responsibility of the parents, if the child is registered at a school the school can override the parents wishes. This is an anomily. If parents are always legally responsible for the child's education, then clearly this responsibility should carry with it the rights necissary to carry fulfil that responsibility.
The current situation is untenable, legally confused. It userps the parents right to make decisions instead placing academics, local authorities and senior teachers in their place. The state as parent.
The result of this is that in the absence of the right to flexischool many parents fully home educate instead. This can have devistating consequences on families who need to give up paid employment to do so.
The alternative is that many children are being forced to remain full time in school when they would otherwise prefer, at least , some time learning from home. Given that there is acknowledgement that there is a mental health crisis with which the state failing to cope, (CAHMS has waiting lists of up to three years in some areas) it makes sense. Particularly in the year 2020-21 when children will be returning to full time school after a break of about five months.
3 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.
4 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.
5 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:
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.
6 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.
7 Your proposal should include:
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).
8 Best interests and welfare of the child.
s175 of the Education Act 2002 states:
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:
11 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, (since around 2015) CPE has offered assistance, flexischooling has started to grow in popularity.
The publication of CPE's Flexischooling Handbook (published by EHP) 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.