Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Department for Education clarify the situation with regard to flexi-schooling

As readers will know, a month or two back the Department for Education changed the rules on flexi-schooling. They have been challenged about this, but remain obdurate. Any Head who now agrees to a flexi-schooling arrangement must mark the pupil as being absent on the days that he is being educated at home. Whether this is an authorised or unauthorised absence, makes no difference; it will still look lousy on the school records. Any maintained school doing this will be sure to have questions asked by their local authority, Ofsted and so on, as it will make it look as though their absence rate is soaring; seldom a good sign! 

The end result of all this will be to limit dramatically the possibility of parents finding schools who will play ball on this. It has been very neatly done, because the practice has not actually been banned and nobody can claim that it has. Here is the clarification that the DfE issued yesterday:

In March the Government clarified its expectation on how schools should
record pupil’s school attendance under a flexi-schooling arrangement.

We advised that Schools should not record a pupil as attending an off-site
educational activity unless the school is actively responsible for
approving and supervising the off-site education, and has established
arrangements to ensure the safety and the welfare of the pupil while being
educated off-site.

Where parents have entered in to flexi-schooling arrangements, schools may
continue to offer those arrangements.  Pupils should be marked absent from
school during sessions when they are receiving home education.


  1. And yet, I am still flexi-schooling and the head has said nothing about this. I guess he is fine about the arrangement and happy to mark as absent.

    Would it really be a problem for him? If the LA 'asked questions', then he'd have an answer - 'Child is being flexi-schooled.'

  2. 'Would it really be a problem for him? If the LA 'asked questions', then he'd have an answer - 'Child is being flexi-schooled.''

    One of the benchmarks upon which schools are judged is absence and truancy rates. One or two flexi-schooled pupils could add a hundred and sixty days of absence to a school's record and this would be frowned upon. I flexi-schooled one of my daughters and am very much in favour of the idea. I am glad that you are still not encountering any problems.

  3. Judged by whom? Frowned upon by whom?
    Couldn't the explanation be sufficient to smooth any furrowed brows?

    I'm trying to imagine how this could be a problem for a head. The governors would know the reason. Any report sent out to parents with such information could include the reason. So, who would be frowning?

  4. I suspect things will go on much as before, tbh. The schools that want to will do it, those that don't, won't. If my choice was between being closed because I didn't have enough pupils and having to explain to Ofsted and the LA that my absence rates were distorted by flexi-schooled pupils then I'd go for the second option.

    Being fair to schools, it must be easier to have 30 kids doing exactly the same than trying to work out who's due in when and what they'll be covering, and where there's a shortage of school places they won't see any need to be flexible. Tough, but that's life.

    On a related topic, have you seen the Children's Commissioner's report about illegal exclusions? According to the BBC, 31% of those surveyed did not know whether it was legal to encourage a parent to educate their child at home, while 24% did not know whether it was legal to falsify attendance records for a child who had been asked not to attend school.

    That leaves me wondering if the perception of HE among teachers could subconsciously be 'that's what we do with the ones we don't want!' which could in turn explain their attitudes. As for the bit about the legality, I'd have hoped that the word 'falsify' would have given them a clue.t



  5. 'Judged by whom? Frowned upon by whom?'

    You might have missed the debate over persistent absence, which is what this whole thing is mixed up with. Both the Department for Education and Ofsted are red-hot on this. Persistent absence has been tied in to various things; ranging from criminality to low academic achievement. All schools are under pressure to reduce their absence rates. Having flexi-schooled pupils would increase the rate of persistent absence and make the schools look slack.

    I must say again that i am very much in favour of flexi-schooling and was doing this with one of my daughters over fifteen years ago. i am talking of how things are; not as I would wish them to be.

    1. I understand that you are pro-FS. What I am trying to explain is that a head, who wanted to, could easily explain what is happening to Ofsted or whoever is frowning that a portion of the absences are due to the quite legal option of FS.

      Anne's point about some heads not wanting to bother is also true.

  6. There is also this to consider from the Dfe website:

    Can a school place a pupil on a parttime timetable?

    As a rule, no. All pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full time education. In very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary part
    time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs. For example where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full time education and a part time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part
    -time timetable must not be treated as a long term
    solution. Any pastoral support programme or other agreement must have a time limit by which point the pupil is expected to attend full time or be provided with alternative provision. In agreeing to a part time timetable a school has agreed to a pupil being absent from
    school for part of the week or day and therefore must record it as authorised absence

  7. The Dfe have said that those already flexi-schooling may continue to do so being marked as authorised absence. However, they are clearly discouraging any new flexi-schooling arrangements.

  8. Here is something about persistent absence, to give people an idea of just why schools might be 'judged' or frowned upon' for having to many absences:

  9. What the government has done is change the guidelines, it's up to individual schools whether they follow the guidelines or not. There are schools that were set up for the purpose of Flexischooling. Academies don't have to show the LA their attendance records & all they will get from ofsted is a slap on the wrist & that's only if ofsted bother looking at the attendance records as they don't always

  10. Ofsted looks at EVERY institution's attendance records because attendance percentages are part of the overall rating Ofsted gives them.

  11. 'Ofsted looks at EVERY institution's attendance records because attendance percentages are part of the overall rating Ofsted gives them.'

    Which is true. An academy with too many persistent absences would run the risk of being branded 'inadequate' by Ofsted; which would not do it any good!

    1. Ofsted changed its inspection criteria, so what was once satisfactory is now inadequate and what was once good is now satisfactory and what was outstanding is now good. Education institutions are going to have to work far harder at making themselves look good for Ofsted which will inevitably mean the education provision will suffer. I think the Lib Dems wanted to get rid of Ofsted. Ofsted needs to go!

  12. "Academies don't have to show the LA their attendance records"

    They would if they have chosen to pay the council for this service rather than keeping it 'in house'.