The Department for Education have released a statement which sheds more light upon their decision to put a stop to flexi-schooling. As readers probably know, it reflects very badly on schools when they suspend pupils, either permanently or temporarily. As a result, some schools are quite cunning about concealing the evidence when they find that they cannot deal with the conduct of certain pupils. I have written before about Firfield school in Newcastle and the creative approach that they took to this problem. The parents of persistent truants were presented with letters to sign, saying that they were deregistering their children and undertaking to educate them at home. The alternative offered was prosecution. Truancy figures for Firfield plummeted! This practice, known to schools as 'offrolling' was pretty common a few years ago and still comes to light from time to time.
Another trick used is to avoid having it look as though your school cannot cope with unruly pupils by arranging for them to spend a few days working at home. This counts not as exclusion, which would mean a black mark for your school’s records, but instead is dealt with by blandly marking down Code B; the kids are being educated ‘off site’. This gets the disruptive children out of the classroom and indeed off the school premises altogether, without the embarrassment of having to exclude them. A win-win situation indeed! There are signs that this racket has been on the increase in recent years. In light of this, the DfE’s statement is interesting:
On 1 November 2012, the Government published revised school attendance advice for consultation. The consultation ended on 13 December 2012 and the revised advice was published on 21 February 2013. During the consultation, some respondents were concerned that some schools were using the school attendance "B" code inappropriately. The Government listened to those concerns and has clarified that it is inappropriate for schools to deal with difficulties with in-school behaviour by sending pupils home with work to do for a few days, and treating the pupil as being in approved education off-site.
Forty eight hours after the revised guidance was published, the Department for Education changed their website, so that it now stated that flexi-schooling was not a legal option. I think that combined with the actions of those promoting flexi-schooling as part of a commercial enterprise, this just about put the tin lid on the practice.