Table of Contents
Updated December 19th 2013
Introduction to Flexischooling
There are several ways to look at flexischooling. The straightforward part is that the child is on roll at a school and attends school for part of the week. It becomes less straightforward when we look at what happens during school hours where the pupil is not in school and the headteacher has agreed that the pupil may be educated elsewhere. It is a question of how the school register is marked.
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."
In its clarification on flexischooling published in March 2013 DfE said "schools should not mark a pupil as attending school, using the attendance code B for off-site education activity, unless the school is responsible for supervising the off-site education, and can ensure the safety and the welfare of the pupil off-site. Schools are ultimately responsible for the attainment of every child registered on their roll..."
The definition of attendance code B is set out in the Pupil Registration Regulations 6.(4)
Hollinsclough School is a well known example of flexischooling. Minister Ed Timpson visited Hollinsclough School and said "it's about what's best for the child." Ofsted rated Hollinsclough "Good" in September 2013.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is flexischooling legal?
Yes. See http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/attendance/a00223239/clarification-on-flexi-schooling published March 22nd 2013. The GOV.UK web page updated November 2013 says "You can ask the school to teach your child part-time, but the school doesn’t have to accept your request."
Has flexischooling been banned?
No. When DfE said on February 22nd that that flexi-schooling did not fit easily within the current legal and financial framework, this was interpreted in some quarters as a ban. However, this was clarified by DfE on March 22nd.
Why did the government change the rules?
Initially the Government explained that concerns had been raised in the course of a recent public consultation on school attendance The reason for further changes between February and March 2013 can be seen here
Wasn't the Attendance Advice going to be revised?
Yes. When the government re-published the Attendance Advice in March 2013 it said that it would be revised in July 2013. Versions were issued in August and November 2013 to take account of the new regulations restricting absence for family holidays (ie Code F removed). Codes I and M have also been added for illness and medical/dental appointments. The latest guidance does not incorporate changes which had been proposed for Code T (Traveller dual registration). https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-attendance
Can existing flexischooling arrangements continue?
Yes. The Department for Education has specifically said that existing arrangements can continue
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 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. However, the Government also refers to "a temporary part-time timetable...for example where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education...[this] must not be treated as a long-term solution. [The school] must record it as authorised absence. [ie code C] 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". Support list for home education and SEN HE-Special
How are schools supposed to mark the register?
At the time of writing in January 2014, the current 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 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 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?
DfE says: "schools should not mark a pupil as attending school, using the attendance code B for off-site education activity, unless the school is responsible for supervising the off-site education, and can ensure the safety and the welfare of the pupil off-site. Schools are ultimately responsible for the attainment of every child registered on their roll..." Technically, the not-at-school elements of a flexischooling arrangement could be set up in order to tick the boxes for Code B ie a morning or afternoon session where the child is taking part in a specified educational activity supervised by a person authorised by the headteacher, and where the school retains responsibility for safety and welfare. The problem with this is that schools have specifically being told to mark the register as absent for flexi-schooled pupils.
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 the register as "absent" for flexischooling it can cause serious problems with their attendance statistics.
Where are the rules for those codes?
DfE's Advice on School Attendance revised on March 22nd 2013 and again in August and November 2013 explains when to use a particular Attendance or Absence Code.
Could there be a special code for flexischooling?
We understand that this has been suggested but it has not been taken up by DfE.
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. DfE has said that the Attendance Advice will next be reviewed in July 2014 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 since the revised Attendance Advice was published on March 22nd 2013. However, in September 2013 Ofsted praised the flexischooling arrangements at Hollinsclough School. More generally, Ofsted monitors "overall and persistent absence and attendance rates for different groups" and is expected to adhere to current Advice on Attendance from the Government (where persistent absence is set at 15%)
What does this mean for the Bedford scheme?
The PLACE project no longer appears to be categorised as flexischooling. 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. PLACE students are registered with Biddenham International School and Sports College and the PLACE project works in partnership with Bedford Borough Council and the school as an approved "alternative provider" PLACE has been studied by the Innovation Unit Parents remain responsible for their children’s education but are required to keep a register
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. DfE has said that the Attendance Advice will next be reviewed in July 2014 When searching for information, try with a space between the words and also a hyphen ie "flexi schooling" and flexi-schooling". I understand that the Minister Liz Truss met with Graham Stuart MP in Autumn 2013 to discuss flexischooling.
Pupil Registration Regulations Off-Site Educational Activity"An approved educational activity is where a pupil is taking part in supervised educational activity such as field trips, educational visits, work experience or alternative provision. Pupils can only be recorded as receiving off-site educational activity it the activity meets the requirements prescribed in regulation 6(4) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. The activity must be of an educational nature approved by the school and supervised by someone authorised by the school. The activity must take place during the session for which the mark is recorded."
GOV.UK page on school attendance
6.—(1) The following particulars must be recorded in the attendance register at the commencement of each morning session and once during each afternoon session -
(a)in the case of every pupil whose name is entered in and not deleted from the admission register whether the pupil is -
(iii)attending an approved educational activity within paragraph (4)
(b)in the case of any such pupil of compulsory school age who is absent, a statement whether or not his absence is authorised in accordance with paragraph (2);
(c)in the case of any such pupil of compulsory school age who is attending an approved educational activity the nature of that activity; and
(d)in the case of any pupil unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances, the nature of those circumstances...
(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.
regulation 6(4) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006
ReferencesDfE's Advice on School Attendance (GOV.UK web page)
Elective Home Education Guidelines web page
For school-level data on absence, see http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/zip/u/sfr04-2012ud.zip via this page https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-including-pupil-characteristics-academic-year-2010-to-2011
http://edyourself.org/flexischoolingattendanceconsultation.pdf summary of responses to recent DfE attendance codes consultation
http://www.usethekey.org.uk/pupils-and-parents/absence-and-attendance/managing-attendance/flexi-schooling updated October 3rd 2013
Change to Regulations Family Holidays in Term Time
An amendment has been made to the 2006 Pupil Registration Regulations which 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 remove references to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days. The amendments make clear that 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.
See also October 15th 2013 statistics on persistent absence The most commonly reported reason for absence was “illness (not medical or dental appointments)”, which accounted for 63.3 per cent of all absences. Of all pupils with a statement of special educational needs, 10.7 per cent were persistent absentees, compared to 3.8 per cent of those pupils with no identified special educational need. Absence data for four year olds (who are not of compulsory school age) was collected for the first time for the autumn term 2012. The overall absence rate for four year olds was 6.4 per cent.