What is Flexing Schooling?
Flexi-schooling is not a legal right, but some schools do offer this option. You will need to discuss this with your school, and the decision rests with the headteacher as to whether to allow it. The reference to flexi-schooling not being allowed was removed from DfE's Advice on School Attendance and the Government Home Education Guidelines in March 2013.
Flexi-Schooling describes an arrangement between the parent and school where children are registered at the school in the usual way but attend school only part time. The rest of the time the child is home educated. This is still classed as full-time education. The numbers of children educated under flexi-schooling arrangements are growing and there are now several schools around the UK which could be said to be specialising as flexi schooling, schools.
There may be a 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,
- school phobia/refusal, (see Anxiety in Children and Low Mood and Depression )
- 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 they are sure that it is in the child’s best interests.
If you have other queries why not check out our Home Education FAQs
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 parents are 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 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 it is allowed is entirely up to the head teachers discretion although the current government appears to discourage these flexible arrangements and want it banning altogether. The head teacher will probably want to discuss the proposal with his/her senior staff, form teacher and possibly the school governors. They may 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.
s175 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 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.
The responsibility to ensure that the child is receiving a full-time education remains, as always, with the parent although the LA may want to satisfy 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).
Previously, flexi-schooled children could be marked with an authorised absence on the register (code B), on the days they were home educated because it is essentially an authorised absence. However, On June 10th, 2013 the then Minister Elizabeth Truss said "Flexi-schooling is a combination of attendance at school and home education. Schools may enter into flexi-schooling arrangements provided they correctly mark children as absent in attendance registers when they are being educated at home." 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."
The rules for Code B are as follows:
Code B: Pupil Registration Regulations Off-Site Educational Activity
6.—(4) An approved educational activity is either -
(a)an activity which takes place outside the school premises and which is -
(i)approved by a person authorised in that behalf by the proprietor of the school;
(ii)of an educational nature, including work experience under section 560 of the Education Act 1996(1) and a sporting activity; and
(iii)supervised by a person authorised in that behalf by the proprietor or the head teacher of the school; or
(b)attendance at another school at which the pupil is a registered pupil.
Code C Absence Code
Code C is an absence code, which will affect the school's overall absence and attendance figures. Where a pupil is marked "absent" there is no indication that the pupil is involved in any educational activity and it has been suggested that when schools mark pupils as "absent" for flexi-schooling it can cause problems with their attendance statistics.
DfE's advice on school attendence was last updated September 2018 explains when to use a particular Attendance or Absence Code. ["Code B: Off-site educational activity This code should be used when pupils are present at an off-site educational activity that has been approved by the school. Ultimately schools are responsible for the safeguarding and welfare of pupils educated off-site. Therefore, by using code B, schools are certifying that the education is supervised, and measures have been taken to safeguard pupils. This code should not be used for any unsupervised educational activity or where a pupil is at home doing school work. Schools should ensure that they have in place arrangements whereby the provider of the alternative activity notifies the school of any absences by individual pupils. The school should record the pupil’s absence using the relevant absence code" and "Code C: Leave of absence authorised by the school Only exceptional circumstances warrant an authorised leave of absence. Schools should consider each application individually taking into account the specific facts and circumstances and relevant background context behind the request."]
The DfE could, of course, introduce a specific code for flexi-schooling but have not, as yet, done so. 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." This is the ONLY place I have found flexi-schooling mentioned on GOV.UK. It does not appear in any current Government advice/guidance. Flexi-schooling is not the same as "part-time education" in the Government's School Advice on Attendance.
If all parties collaborate to make it work, flexi-schooling can be advantageous for parents and children. It may be particularly beneficial to those children struggling with a school environment or for those struggling due to SEN or physical disability/illness. It can also enable the parent responsible for education to take part-time work outside the home.
There are a number of problems commonly encountered by parents attempting to arrange Flexi-schooling for their child. One example is SATs tests. Regardless of any flexi schooling arrangements if a child is registered at a school the child's SAT's results will be counted. Should the child not take the SAT's test then the school scores zero in all the tests the child does not 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 not be confident of the child passing the tests due to the flexi-schooling arrangements and because they do not have full control of the situation; they may be concerned about the effects on the school’s league table position. The same applies to GCSE's. If the child is not intending to take certain GCSE’s, the school may decide that this will damage their league table position. Several school’s 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 temporary, expecting the child to return to full time education after a term or two, even where the parents have specifically stated that they are looking for a long-term arrangement.
If you would like flexi-schooling considered, your proposal should include a paragraph stating that as the child will be in your care and absent from school there are no insurance implications for the school, explain how flexi-schooling is in the best interests of the child and how you see the arrangement working in practice.