Monday, 25 February 2013

Flexi-schooling




As somebody commented here yesterday, many years ago I flexi-schooled one of my daughters. I did not call it that; I simply noticed that she was falling behind academically and started keeping her at home for two or three days a week and teaching her myself until she had caught up. Both the school and an Educational Psychologist from Haringey, the local authority, told me at the time that I was breaking the law and could be prosecuted for condoning truancy. I told them to go ahead and prosecute if they felt like it. This was between 1994 and 1998.

     Readers will probably know by now that the Department for Education have recently announced that this practice is definitely not allowed and that if a child is registered at a school, then he or she must attend full-time.  In the past, many schools have turned a blind eye to this sort of arrangement  or come to an accommodation for parents who wish to educate their children like this. After all, they continue to get the entire Age Weighted Pupil Unit, the money , whether the pupil attends full or part-time.

     Why has the Department for Education suddenly cracked down on flexi-schooling? I think that it might possibly have something to do with our old friend Alison Sauer. As long as this sort of thing was being done informally with just a handful of kids here and there; there was no reason for anybody to be too bothered about it. It is when it started being heavily promoted as an option and represented as a legal alternative that the DfE began to get a little uneasy. You can see their point; there is scope for a few rackets here of various sorts. These might range from schools claiming funding for twice as many pupils as are actually attending, to parents who for reasons other than the purely educational, only want their children to attend school for a few days a week.

     Where does Alison Sauer come into all this? As many readers will know, she runs a company which offers training to local authorities. A while ago, she decided that the future, the real money, lay in flexi-schooling, rather than running the odd training session. She accordingly revamped her company, renamed it and set up a new website which was geared more towards flexi-schooling than it was ordinary home education. See:

http://www.sc-education.co.uk/flexischooling/

     The Department for Education did not like the way that this trend was moving and since more and more schools were entering into arrangements of this sort, which might possible be unlawful, they decided to issue new guidance, which effectively banned the practice. This might be part of a general move towards making sure that pupils spend as much time as possible in school. The new plans for GRT children might tie in with this trend. Had people not shouted about it and held conferences and generally promoted the thing, I have an idea that this would not have happened. It is a classic case of one person spoiling it for everybody else.

On an unrelated note, I must say a few words about comments made here recently. It has been suggested that I am selectively quoting or misrepresenting those who comment. This is bound to happen, because I literally do not understand a lot of the time what people are trying to say. The words are English alright and the grammar and syntax correct, but the sentences themselves make no sense. Take, as a typical example; ‘Parents usually act from a place of love for their children’. What on earth can this mean? That most parents love their children? If so, why the devil does the writer not simply say so? You see my problem; I am compelled to decode stuff like this and from time to time, I get it wrong . If people would only write in plain English, then this would not happen! Can anybody here tell me what a 'place of love' is?

42 comments:

  1. I would think it is a similar structure to 'from a position of strength'. It's not rocket science. It may be unnecessarily fluffy and girly, but hardly difficult to work out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I must have missed where the government banned flexi-schooling. I'd better tell all the local schools which are doing it that they are now breaking the law!

    That's the problem with not being 'on the lists'!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've just checked the DfE site and can't see any mention of new rules about flexi-schooling or that it has 'recently announced that this practice is definitely not allowed.'

    I don't doubt that it's true. You would hardly have stated it here if it weren't. I just want to read the wording of the ban. Can anyone point out where I can read it?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Simon, can I have your take on this? Not in a point scoring sort of way, but as one who seems to feel that authority is mostly benign but possibly less than competent?

    How can home edders be expected to work with government and LA's when they can have the rug pulled out from under them like this? No consultation, no discussion, no transition arrangements for current users of the system. No apparent publicity for the schools either.

    I'm pretty sure flexi-ed was discussed approvingly in the Badman Review as a way forward, as referenced here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jun/23/home-schooling-early-years-education


    I'm in the 'give them a fair chance' camp, but two incidents in a week (the first being the GRT phrasing) makes it very hard not to start straying towards the 'don't trust them as far as you can kick them' end of the spectrum.


    Anne

    ReplyDelete
  5. Erg, we are all trying to achieve the same goal... to help our children through to being able to take their place in our communities, why do 'departments' have to butt heads with parents who want to be active in helping their children?

    ReplyDelete
  6. 'How can home edders be expected to work with government and LA's when they can have the rug pulled out from under them like this? No consultation, no discussion, no transition arrangements for current users of the system. No apparent publicity for the schools either.'

    I'm not sure that I would put it like that, Anne. My understanding of the situation was always that it was a grey area legally, but that if the head agreed, then the DfE would not intervene. Now, the DfE has intervened and said that it must stop. I am sure that all those parents who have been flexi-schooling must, like me, have known that it was a dubious legal point. All that the Department for Education have done is remove the ambiguity and make it clear that this practice is not in accordance with the law. I am sure that they will have take legal advice on this.

    I agree that they could have given a little more notice, but when you do something of this sort, you must always be aware that permission may be withdrawn at any time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have flexi-edded, Simon, for the school's convenience as much as mine, because my children didn't fit their system.

      It was always made clear that it was at the discretion of an individual head teacher, but I was certainly never aware that it was legally ambiguous or that the arrangement could be overridden without notice.

      So maybe I was naive? Well, I was a lot more trusting, back then. That doesn't mean I'd deserve to be suddenly faced with my educational arrangements being turned upside down. And how do you explain it to the children involved? Who, after all, are the most important people in all this.

      As for the AWPU, then surely the simple option is that the schools were told that from September 2013 they would be paid it pro-rata according to the number of half-day sessions a pupil attends.

      That way, schools and parents could review their arrangements and transitions could be put in place as necessary.


      Before you say, 'too complicated' some autistic children already split their time between mainstream and special schools and that's how funding's allocated there, so it must be possible.




      Anne

      Delete
  7. 'why do 'departments' have to butt heads with parents who want to be active in helping their children?'

    It's not so much parents as schools that this is aimed at. Currently, a school could be getting fifty AWPUs for twenty five children who attend on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and another twenty five who are attending only on Thursdays and Fridays. This means that a school with only twenty five pupils attending each day, could claim the same funding as one which has fifty pupils attending each day. In these days of cost-cutting, it is this anomaly that the new guidance seeks to remove.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's nice to see you agreeing with the Conservative government on this, Simon.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just in case anybody can't find the new guidance, it is on page 22 of this document:

    http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/a/advice%20on%20school%20attendance%20-%20final%20cleared.pdf


    As I always thought, it says that schools may be committing an offence by not requiring full-time attendance. This was the line taken by my daughter's school when I was doing this and they also thought that I too was committing an offence by condoning truancy. Unless anybody has any better information than this, I am guessing that this was always the legal position.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 'It's nice to see you agreeing with the Conservative government on this, Simon.'

    I'm sorry, but I hope that nobody has the idea that I approve of this development? How on earth has anybody got that impression from what I have written here? I spent over three years flexi-schooling and know a number of parents in the London boroughs of Haringey and Hackney who were doing the same. I am merely pointing out that I always assumed that the practice was unlawful. The Department for Education has now confirmed that my suspicions were correct. This is not as a result of any new action by the present government; the legislation that they cite is all old stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Simon, I think its important that we keep a clear distinction between what the law might say, and what government policy for government-funded schools is (I say this as someone who teaches law at university-level and used to practice it).

    That is, the new statement offers two justifications for forbidding flexi-schooling. One is that schools get full-time payment for a part-time student, and that this isn't acceptable. This is not a matter of law, but just of government policy. It shuts still shuts down flexi-schooling, of course, but only for publicly-funded schools.

    I think this is an important point because that might still leave independent schools able to offer flexi-schooling. Indeed, coincidentally I just met with a local independent school about flexi-schooling my child, and they were open to the idea.

    However, the government's statement also makes the genuinely "legal" claim that the law says child can go to school full-time or "otherwise", and that this means they can't do both. Flexi-schooling only violates the law if this interpretation of the law is indeed correct.

    This is, though, just a government department's interpretation of the law, and government departments don't decide what the law means, courts do. So if someone were accused of violating the law by flexi-schooling their child, they could certainly challenge the department's interpretation of the law.

    Moreover, it's a highly questionable interpretation of the law. The text of the law says "regular attendance at school or otherwise". It is, though, far from clear why "part-time attendance at school" does not fall under the "otherwise" prong of the law - given that the comparison is with "regular attendance at school".

    Moreover, while the legislation requires "full-time education" it does not require "full-time attendance", but only "regular attendance". This may seem a minor point, but a basic principle of legal interpretation is that if a law uses two different expressions in the same context, they should be read to mean two different things. In short, if the law meant "full-time attendance" it could have said so - the legislators certainly knew the expression, as they used "full-time" earlier in the very same sentence.

    Yet if a child attends school regularly for only a couple of days a week, this is still "regular attendance", under the plain meaning of those words ("plain meaning" being the guiding standard for the interpretation of legislation unless a technical meaning is clearly applicable).

    So there are at least quite solid arguments that flexi-schooling is perfectly legal. It is just no longer an option for publicly-funded schools. That is, though, a matter of governmental policy, not of law.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 'So there are at least quite solid arguments that flexi-schooling is perfectly legal. It is just no longer an option for publicly-funded schools. That is, though, a matter of governmental policy, not of law.'

    I don't doubt for a moment that you know more about the legal position than I do! As I say, even when I was undertaking flexi-schooling, I was told that it might be unlawful, not only for me but also for the school. You say that this is not so and you may well be right. I shall be interested to see how this all works out if anybody tries to challenge it through the courts.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Tony again: Of course, realistically that will only happen if someone can find an independent school willing to flexi-schooling - and independent schools are generally unwilling to do things the government says are illegal. So a court case is not impossible, but clearly unlikely.

    Ultimately, then, flexi-schooling is off the table until government policy changes again. A pity really, as there are good educational justifications for flexi-schooling, if it's done right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Independent schools already do that. A local school has been offering part time places, for one subject or more, to home educators for several years now. It works well for the school and the HE community.

      Delete
    2. Also, I am home educating a child (on behalf of the parents) one afternoon a week while the child attends a local state school the rest of the time. I would not imagine the school has read this new ban as the arrangement was only set up last week. It will be interesting to see if the arrangement has to end.

      Delete
  14. "I am compelled to decode stuff like this and from time to time, I get it wrong ."

    It all depends on your intention Simon. If your intention is to exchange ideas and communicate with people, you will gain clarity on meaning before forming your opinion and certainly before publishing it. Since you do seem to have a genuine difficulty knowing when you may have misunderstood the other person, a technique you could try is to reflect back to the person what you think they might be trying to say and give them a chance to correct your impression. Repeat until the other person is satisfied your are stating their position correctly.

    However, if you believe you already have a monopoly on wisdom, have nothing to learn from other people and enjoy pissing them off, carry on.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think Simon chose to split hairs about those particular three words rather because the commenter themselves was pissing HIM off.

    ReplyDelete
  16. 'Since you do seem to have a genuine difficulty knowing when you may have misunderstood the other person, a technique you could try is to reflect back to the person what you think they might be trying to say and give them a chance to correct your impression.'

    An interesting suggestion, which has already been tried with little success! Asking people here what they mean usually results in their telling me that they mean just exactly what they say. This is not always helpful. I am bound to observe that even your comment is couched strangely. What do you mean, for example, by, 'reflect back to the person'? Do you mean ask them? If so, then why not say so?

    The problem is that several of those who comment regularly here either use peculiar phrasing, such as 'place of love' or lard their comments with obscure words, used in very unusual ways. An instance of this was the expression, 'individuation', which was being employed in a clinical sense. Rather than my constantly having to ask people to clarify what they are trying to say, would it not be a better idea for everybody here to use plain, unambiguous English?

    ReplyDelete
  17. 'I think Simon chose to split hairs about those particular three words rather because the commenter themselves was pissing HIM off.'

    Am I then to assume that you knew at once what was meant by the expression, 'act from a place of love'? I suspect that my grasp of idiomatic English is better than most, but some of the weird constructions which I encounter here come close to defeating me.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The person was making some very good points until their use of that one unfortunate phrase though, none of which you managed to answer successfully.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "What do you mean, for example, by, 'reflect back to the person'? Do you mean ask them? If so, then why not say so?" Because I don't mean that. Just saying "What do you mean?" doesn't help as you have discovered. They will simply repeat what they already said. By reflect back, I mean ask "Do you mean...?" or "Are you saying...?" But don't comment at the same time. Wait until you have clarity before commenting..

    ReplyDelete
  20. Simon wrote,
    "We use reflective listening techniques to reflect the person’s statement back to them as well as summarizing our interpretation of their utterance."

    I'm very surprised that you haven't met this use of the phrase, feflective listening', whilst working for a charity for so many years. It's something I've heard of quite often without ever working in a caring profession.

    Here's a quote from a web site you might consider reading if you want to learn more:

    "We use reflective listening techniques to reflect the person’s statement back to them as well as summarizing our interpretation of their utterance."

    http://thenewmaudsleyapproach.co.uk/PS_Listening.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry! Simon actually said,
      "What do you mean, for example, by, 'reflect back to the person'? Do you mean ask them? If so, then why not say so?"

      Delete
  21. 'Simon wrote,
    "We use reflective listening techniques to reflect the person’s statement back to them as well as summarizing our interpretation of their utterance."

    I'm very surprised that you haven't met this use of the phrase, reflective listening', whilst working for a charity for so many years. It's something I've heard of quite often without ever working in a caring profession.'

    Well yes, I am perfectly familiar with reflective listening and It is a technique which I am constantly using here. It is for this reason that I thought that you might mean something different by the term. I frequently seem to begin almost every other response to a comment by starting; 'You seem to be saying...', 'As I understand it, you think...' or 'I wonder if you mean...'

    So often do I do this, that I could not really guess that you were saying that I should do it more! Lately, I have been cutting back on this a little, because it seems only to have the effect of irritating people. They do not, after all, come here to listen to an annoyingly patient person who keep asking them if he understands them correctly. They think that they are speaking clearly enough already.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Simon said,
    "Well yes, I am perfectly familiar with reflective listening and It is a technique which I am constantly using here."

    So Simon, when you said,
    ""What do you mean, for example, by, 'reflect back to the person'? Do you mean ask them? If so, then why not say so?"

    It sounds as though you understood what the original writer meant when they said, 'reflect back to the person', but objected to how they said it for some reason ("If so, then why not say so?"). If the meaning was clear to you, why include the comment in a complaint about phrases you didn't understand or couldn't follow? It was clear to you and clear to others, so why ask what they meant?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Also, I think the crucial point is, "But don't comment at the same time. Wait until you have clarity before commenting..." The idea of reflective listening is that you check you have a full nderstood of the speaker's point before making incorrect assumptions and proceeding to comment on that basis. Here lies the source of many straw men, I suspect.

    ReplyDelete
  24. A head teacher can grant as much time off as is needed from school for off site education.

    ReplyDelete
  25. 'It sounds as though you understood what the original writer meant when they said, 'reflect back to the person', but objected to how they said it for some reason '

    Not at first, no. Of course when I stopped to think about the matter carefully, I remembered the idea of reflective listening. Trying to clarify what has been said by playing it back to the other party is an old technique, which certainly predates the expression, 'reflective listening'. No ordinary person though would talk of, 'reflecting back to the person what you think they might be trying to say'. This is another example of the use of jargon; this time from the counselling industry.

    In real life, people do not talk of 'individuation issues' or 'reflecting back to the person'. Some might, I suppose, use elaborate metaphors such as "act from a place of love'; although such individuals are, mercifully, rare. (As indeed are those who regurgitate indigestible gobbets of Ayn Rand!) All I have been suggesting is that those commenting here use plain and unadorned English. That way, it will hardly be necessary for anybody to require further explanation and we shall be able to focus upon the content, rather than the form, of their comments.

    ReplyDelete
  26. The law talks about registration at school and a pupil registered in a state school is required to attend except in certain circumstances, one of which is off site education in an approved place, at the discretion of the head teacher. That is flexi school. It is even included in the guidance doc that says the law doesn't allow for both.

    ReplyDelete
  27. 'That is flexi school. It is even included in the guidance doc that says the law doesn't allow for both.'

    True. Unfortunately, the 2007 guidelines are being rewritten at this very moment to remove the part which says that flexi-schooling is an option. See here;


    http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/parents/involvement/homeeducation/a0073367/elective-home-education-guidelines


    I think it is safe to assume that legal advice has been take now and that the DfE are pretty sure of their position.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Simon wrote,
    "I think it is safe to assume that legal advice has been take now and that the DfE are pretty sure of their position."

    I'm not sure this is a safe assumption, it wouldn't be the first time they have had to back down after legal issues have been raised. One of their previous attempts to change the EHE guidelines, if I'm remembering correctly.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thank you very much for the great list and I appreciate your efforts to bring such a huge list for us. I really appreciate posts, which might be of very useful. I look forward to future updates. Once again thanks. Keep smiling. Bio Sanjaya | Les Privat | Hasil Prediksi

    ReplyDelete
  30. Why people still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe the whole thing is existing on net?


    My blog Abercrombie Et Fitch

    ReplyDelete
  31. Great blog right here! Also your website so much up very fast!
    What host are you the usage of? Can I get your affiliate hyperlink to
    your host? I want my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

    my site; Nike Air Jordan

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi there, yes this post is truly nice and I have
    learned lot of things from it regarding blogging. thanks.



    Also visit my weblog :: Air Jordan Pas Cher

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However
    I am going through problems with your RSS. I don't understand the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting identical RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    Here is my web blog: Abercrombie Bruxelles

    ReplyDelete
  34. Wow, that's what I was exploring for, what a stuff! present here at this webpage, thanks admin of this site.

    Also visit my web-site - Louis Vuitton Handbags Outlet

    ReplyDelete
  35. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you should publish more about this issue,
    it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don't talk about these topics. To the next! Many thanks!!

    Here is my web page; Evgeni Malkin Black Jersey

    ReplyDelete
  36. For latest information you have to pay a visit world-wide-web and on web I found this site as a
    best site for latest updates.

    Here is my weblog; Abercrombie Bruxelles

    ReplyDelete
  37. I have raised a petition asking for a new Flexi-Schooling code that won't affect a schools attendance record. My local MP is also raising and mentioning this petition in Parliament. Please back her up by signing this petition:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/rt-hon-michael-gove-create-a-new-code-for-flexi-schooling

    Thanks
    JAN

    ReplyDelete