Table of Contents
Introduction to Flexischooling
This page was updated on November 22nd 2016
Minister Liz Truss said in June 2013 "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."
Half the pupils at Erpingham School are flexi-schooled. The flexi arrangement was praised by Ofsted in February 2014.
Hollinsclough Church of England Academy is another well known example of flexischooling. Minister Ed Timpson visited the previous Hollinsclough School and said "it's about what's best for the child." Ofsted rated the previous Hollinsclough School "Good" in September 2013. Update
Frequently Asked Questions
Is flexischooling legal?
Yes, but the school doesn't have to agree. The GOV.UK home education web page (updated October 2016) says "Write to the headteacher if you plan to take your child out of school. They must accept if you’re taking your child out completely. They can refuse if you want to send your child to school some of the time."
Why did the government change the rules?
In early 2013 the Government explained that concerns had been raised in the course of a consultation on school attendance The reason for further changes between February and March 2013 can be seen here
How are schools supposed to mark the register?
At the time of writing in November 2016, the Government position is that schools should mark the register code C (authorised absence) where pupils are home educated during school hours. 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."
What's the significance of marking the register absent?
The Government wants registered pupils to attend school full-time and expects schools to monitor attendance closely. Before February 2013, schools were able to mark the register code B ie that the child was educated off-site.
Can't schools use code B at all?
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." Scroll down or click here for the rules on Code B.
Why is code C bad?
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 flexischooling it can cause problems with their attendance statistics.
Where are the rules for those codes?
DfE's Advice on School Attendance last updated November 2016 explains when to use a particular Attendance or Absence Code.
Could there be a special code for flexischooling?
I understand that this has been suggested but it has not been taken up by DfE.
Wasn't this going to be looked at again?
Yes, but the changes that some people were expecting did not materialise. In February 2013 the Government issued School Attendance Advice saying there was no provision in law for flexischooling. A month later this paragraph was removed. There have been 4 updates to the document since that time (see family holiday regulations for more background information) but flexischooling has not reappeared. The current version of the Attendance Advice is dated November 2016 and reflects recent amendments to the Pupil Registration Regulations aimed at better tracking of children out of school.
What is happening with Hollinsclough now?
The latest flexischool arrangements for Hollinsclough Academy are here: Policy; Memorandum of Understanding; and Protocol (all 2016, via this page) including a minimum of 3 consecutive days attendance per week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday); all children to complete initial low key entry assessment in each of the core subjects of Literacy, Numeracy, Speaking and Listening to allow staff to set work appropriate to ability; KS2 in Y6 to attend full week SATS week + prior to the test additional days are recommended for preparation
Can new flexischool arrangements be set up?
Yes. However, the advice on marking the register may deter some schools.
Are the rules different for private schools?
There has been no specific guidance published by the Government in relation to fee-paying schools. The overall position for fee-paying schools in terms of the legal framework and registration requirements, is the same as for state-funded schools. The only difference is that the issue of schools being fully-funded for part-time attendance does not arise.
What if children are flexischooled because they have special needs?
Flexischooling is permissible whether or not a child has SEN and there is no time limit placed on the arrangement. This is different from a part-time timetable for example where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education. DfE says the latter must not be treated as a long-term solution. Link, November 2016 In May 2013, DfE said "On SEN, we are looking further into the legal aspect of flexi-schooling for pupils with SEN as a result of enquiries from elsewhere". I am NOT aware of any further developments. Support list for home education and SEN HE-Special
Can schools get part-funding?
DfE has said that "the school finance legal framework does not provide specifically for part-time registration or part-time funding for pupils of compulsory school age."
There have been quite a few changes already; might it all change again?
Yes this is possible although the direction of travel appears to be about restricting and discouraging the use of code B
What does Ofsted say about flexischooling?
Ofsted has not made a public statement about flexischooling However, Ofsted has praised Hollinsclough and Erpingham. More generally, Ofsted monitors overall and persistent absence and attendance rates for different groups (Link) and is expected to adhere to current Advice on Attendance from the Government
What does this mean for the Bedford scheme?
The PLACE project is no longer categorised as flexischooling. It is currently described as "a Bedford Local Authority support service for home educating families managed by Biddenham International School and Sports College. To be eligible for the scheme, children should be on the elective home education (EHE) register of the local authority in which they live." The website also says "PLACE is commissioned by Bedord Borough Council and delivered in partnership with Biddenham Upper School Bedford." PLACE began life as the Biddenham Upper School Home Educators (BUSHE) Programme in 2004. In 2006 it changed to FSESHE (Full-Service Extended School Home-Education) programme, becoming PLACE or the Parent Led and Community-based Education scheme in 2011 History. PLACE has been studied by the Innovation Unit (Link)
How can I persuade a school to agree to a flexi arrangement?
There is no automatic right to flexischooling. Some schools may be more likely to let a child who is already a pupil attend part-time, than they would be to agree to flexischool before a child has ever attended. It is also more likely to be received favourably if the school has falling rolls ie if there are more places than children.
How can I keep up with all the changes?
Many people have told me that they don't know what's happening with flexischooling. Updates will be posted here. When searching for information, try with a space between the words and also a hyphen ie "flexi schooling" and flexi-schooling".
Code B: Pupil Registration Regulations Off-Site Educational Activity
"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." Government Advice on Attendance
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.
Change to Regulations Family Holidays in Term Time
An amendment to the 2006 Pupil Registration Regulations came into force on 1 September 2013. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 previously allowed headteachers to grant leave of absence for the purpose of a family holiday during term time in "special circumstances" of up to ten school days leave per year. Headteachers could also grant extended leave for more than ten school days in exceptional circumstances. Amendments to the 2006 regulations here removed references to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days. Headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Headteachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if the leave is granted.
The November 2013 Attendance Advice said that "only exceptional circumstances warrant an authorised leave of absence. Schools should consider each request individually taking into account the circumstances, such as: the nature of the event for which leave is sought; the frequency of the request; whether the parent gave advance notice; and the pupil’s attainment, attendance and ability to catch up on missed schooling." In October 2014, this was amended to: "Head teachers should only authorise leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. If a head teacher grants a leave request, it will be for the head teacher to determine the length of time that the child can be away from school. Leave is unlikely, however, to be granted for the purposes of a family holiday as a norm.” This remains unchanged in the latest version November 2016
The latest Advice on Attendance from the Government (November 2016) is sticking to the 2014 Advice by saying "Head teachers should only authorise leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. If a head teacher grants a leave request, it will be for the head teacher to determine the length of time that the child can be away from school. Leave is unlikely, however, to be granted for the purposes of a family holiday as a norm."