Thursday, 25 April 2013
Another reason that flexi-schooling is being discouraged
I am, I will freely confess, a little slow on the uptake sometimes. During all the discussion on flexi-schooling, I have failed to connect up the dots and tie it in with various practices in schools; practices which I knew about, but did not think to associate with flexi-schooling. A reader yesterday drew attention to a new report on informal exclusions and it was after reading this report that the penny finally dropped.
I am sure that most of us know that there are children at school who do not wish to be there. Sometimes, these children register their protest by being disruptive and making life difficult for both the staff and other pupils. It only takes one or two such children in a class to slow down the teaching and sometimes make it wholly impossible to deliver a lesson. One way of dealing with this is to let these children leave the school premises; thus satisfying both them and the staff. This can be done in various ways. You can tell them to stay off school for a week if their ties are not done up properly, for example, or, and this is where we come to the subject of flexi-schooling; you can encourage them to take ‘study leave’. This sort of thing is more common for children in the run-up to GCSEs, but can be granted informally at any time. What you do is say to the child, ‘You can work from home if you like for the next fortnight. Be sure to study hard.” It is of course all nonsense. You know and so does the kid, that there is not the slightest chance of his doing any schoolwork. He will be playing on the Xbox and hanging around the park. You, the teacher, will be able to get on with teaching those kids who do actually want to learn. Badly behaved children are often given more ‘study days’ than those who are doing well academically.
What has this to do with flexi-schooling? Children who have been excluded from education by this racket are marked in the register as being educated off site; the same code used for children being flexi-schooled. Recent research showed that 2% of primary schools and 11% of secondary schools are doing this. It is a brilliant way to reduce bad behaviour in your school, but not very good for the children themselves. In one school, a bunch of the more disruptive pupils were told not to come back after the Christmas holidays, but to study at home until they took their GCSEs in May. They too were marked down as being educated off site.
It is because this scandal was about to erupt, as it did when Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner, spoke out about it this week, that the Department for Education have cracked down on the use of the code in the register for children being educated off site. They evidently caught wind of this a few months ago and decided to tighten up a little before Maggie Atkinson began shooting her mouth off. I do not think that this is the only reason that flexi-schooling is now being discouraged, but it certainly explains why such children can no longer be described as being educated off site. This system has been so abused that the DfE are determined to put a stop to it altogether.