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Flexi (time) school (part-time attendance)

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago









What is Flexi-schooling?


Kate Oliver explains this well in the book "Free Range Education", edited by Terri Dowty. She wrote:


 "Flexi-time schooling is choosing when to be educated, using schools just as they are. Time arrangements can take the form of so many days or part-days per week; or a block of weeks in school and then a block of weeks out of school.


Initially, flexi-schooling was taken to mean, “The part-time arrangement whereby school and family share responsibility for the child's education in an agreed contract and partnership" (Meighan, 1988).  This is now more accurately seen as flexi-time schooling.


School becomes one of many resources, such as libraries, computers, television, etc., to be used when the child and the parents choose, according to an agreement between them and the local school. The parents are as involved as the teachers in their children's education, and the children are encouraged to learn for themselves as well as being taught.


Flexi-schooling is choosing how, when, where, with whom.  It amounts to the democratisation of learning, the demise of coercive teaching, and would require the complete redesign of the existing educational system.  For this to happen, a school has to adopt a policy of reform towards more flexibility in several or all of its teaching methods, learner roles, curriculum specifications, parental roles, etc.


Ultimately, flexi-schooling can lead to flexi-education, a more flexible approach to all aspects of education, and can be applied to aims, power, curriculum and organisation as well as to location and time.  This can lead to schools becoming open centres for learning, more like adult education colleges and the Open University in which both  "lococentric" and distance learning methods are available.  The curriculum is negotiated to suit the individual child and the teacher can adopt further roles - amongst others already existing - such as one more like that of a tutor.


Flexi-education has been described as:


 "alternatives for everybody, all the time"  - (Education Now Ltd).


Flexi-time schooling, therefore, is the temporary expedient for those who cannot wait for the above, but who, for various reasons, do not want solely to home educate - perhaps because they also want to put some energy into pushing for flexi-schooling and on to flexi-education!"


We are lucky to have some enlightened LAs and Head teachers who are happy to accomodate flexibility, but still not to the extent we would like and in some areas inflexibility is sadly the norm. Hopefully this page will help to dispel some of the myths and anxieties and encourage wider use of the flexi-time alternative.



Government thinking on flexibility.


Every government claims to have the best interest of children at heart and the current government is no exception.


In their  “Children’s Plan”,  Mr Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, introduces the plan by saying the Department “… put the needs of families, children and young people at the centre of everything we do.” He explained that government wish to “…involve parents fully in their children’s learning…” and “families will be at the centre of excellent, integrated services that put their needs first, regardless of traditional institutional and professional structures” and finally that the Department “…can back all parents as they bring up their children…”.


All of the above should be good news for parents, especially those parents who are seeking flexibility and personalised learning experiences for their child.


As defined in the Report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review Group: "Put simply, personalised learning and teaching means taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child's and young person's learning, in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils - and their parents - as partners in learning."


The Department explains that research shows the benefit of consulting learners about their education.


Those parents who are seeking flexi-time (part-time) schooling for their child, should feel encouraged by these initiatives.


Today, even in Government, everything is pointing toward teaching the individual not the class. Recognition is given to the importance of nurturing individual needs and respecting parents as the most valuable starting point and continuing partners in the any child’s education. Outcomes are regularly proven to be improved by parent involvement.


So here we are, in a world where partnership is paramount, personalisation is promoted and part-time attendance sounds like perfect practice.


Kate Oliver obviously found Head teachers and LAs (LEAs) who were ahead of their time and were ready and willing to challenge inflexible schooling patterns. Government have only caught up with them over the last decade and (sadly) there are still many resistant educators out there who maybe baulk at change, fear paths they have not yet trodden or simply believe that education cannot work without full time application in a single setting.


One of the more innovative schemes was set up by the Local Authority in Bedfordshire and approved by the then DfES in their initiative to extend school activity and usefulness (google "extended schools"). The school registered a substantial number of local home educated children, thereby receiving full funding for them, and offered the school premises, facilities and access to classes such as swimming and sport to those children, thereby meeting the wishes of the home educating families and providing funds for the school. A win-win situation! The children became registered pupils at a school – which means they were no longer classed as home educated - and arrangements were made so that the school register would be "fed" by the families "logging on" to confirm the child's "presence" for approved education off-site.


The DCSF have also recently made it clear (EHE: Guidelinesfor LAs) that the only previous area of doubt (the National Curriculum (NC)) is not a cause of concern; during periods that the child is educated off-site or absent with leave there is no requirement for the NC to be applied – so long as the school delivers the NC when the child attends, it is not necessary for the NC to be delivered in full – the overall education profile remains, as in every child’s case, the responsibility of the parent.


So what are the objections and repostes? 


Schools have resources and expertise that are state funded yet not available to all children. You may argue that all children are able to access a state school place (and ultimately those resources) and you would, in theory, be correct. But what of the child’s needs and wishes and what of the law that requires a child’s education to be suitable to that child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs that child has? How can a parent legally or morally send their child to school on a full time basis if that is not what they genuinely believe would provide a suitable education for that child? Why should that parent be forced to provide their child’s education entirely otherwise than at a school if they are not willing to utilise the school on a full-time basis and especially if they believe part-time attendance at a school would best serve the child’s age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs?


Why should a parent, who has chosen to educate otherwise than at a school, not be able to access the expertise of teachers and expensive practical resources such as a chemistry laboratory or a music room? Adults, whose education is no longer compulsory, are able to access these things part-time at colleges, yet children of compulsory education age are too often denied them. Why, if the law recognises education other than at a school to be equally valid to that at a school (which it does), are state resources not readily afforded to those choosing the former?


Many parents over the years have managed to arrange part-time schooling for their child. Some have met no resistance to the arrangement, having the good fortune to have met an enlightened head teacher or sometimes simply a head teacher who needs the cash that another registered pupil attracts!


Sadly however, too many parents still report that their child has been refused a part-time place because a head teacher, whose legal right it is to exercise their preference or prejudice in this matter, can’t see how it could work and isn’t willing to give it a try. Hopefully, what follows will be useful in helping those Head Teachers to understand the ins and outs and persuade them to at least give it a try.






Is it legal?


Yes. A Head teacher or proprietor can approve periods of absence with leave or education off-site.


Absence with leave-


Although a registered pupil is obliged to attend “regularly”, section 444 (3) of the Education Act 1996 provides that “The child shall not be taken to have failed to attend regularly at the school by reason of his absence from the school —


(a) with leave,...”


And section 444(9) provides that “In this section “leave”, in relation to a school, means leave granted by any person authorised to do so by the governing body or proprietor of the school”, that person usually being the head teacher.


Absence with leave or authorised absence are the terms used to describe the child's out of school status. They are not terms that define the mark on the register. The mark on the school register is a very specific code chosen from a list of formal codes and it is ONLY this code that defines how a child's and/or school's attendance record will be affected. (see below)


Non statutory guidance (Absence and Attendance Codes: Guidance for Schools and Local Authorities. October 2007) advises that absence with leave is only for "exceptional occasions" so Head teachers may prefer to approve education off-site.



How will the teacher mark the child on the register when s/he is not at school?


The DCSF have produced a list of absence codes for school registers (found here). A child who is registered at a school and is not present at a school session (a morning or an afternoon) because they are being educated otherwise than at school at that time under a formal flexi-time arrangement, will usually be marked "B". B is the code for "Educated off-site (Approved Educational Activity)". This is not the same as an authorised absence for other purposes such as medical appointments, study leave or approved family holidays and will therefore not reflect poorly on the school's overall attendance record.


This can be slightly confusing, especially being as the new Guidelines for Local Authorities about Elective Home Education refer to flexi-time arrangements as requiring "authorised absence". But absence in this context is a generic term for "not at school". To understand this it is helpful to realise that all of the codes a teacher can use on the register are called "absence codes" - even the mark for being present!  For clearer wording it is better to read the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, Regulation 6 than the DCSF's short papragraph on flexi-time in the EHE guidelines.


DCSF guidance on the use of register codes (Absence Data - Absence and Attendance Codes Oct 2007.doc ) states that: "Approved Educational Activity must be supervised by someone approved by the school.  It must also take place during the session for which the mark is recorded."


It also states that " For educational and safeguarding reasons, schools should ensure that they have in place arrangements whereby the provider of the alternative activity provided “off site” can notify the school of any absences by individual pupils so that the school can record the pupil absence using the relevant absence code."


This guidance reflects the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, Regulations 6 (1)(a)(iii) and 6 (4)(a).

Regulation 6 (1)(c) also requires that the nature of the approved educational activity should be recorded for each session.

If a child is not present under a flexi-time arrangement made for a child who is not yet of compulsory school age, the register can be marked "X". X is the code for non compulsory school age absence (attendance not required) and is not counted in possible attendances.

Other approved educational activity not covered by other codes and descriptions

It may also be possible, though not necessary, for a child to be marked "C". This is the code for "Other authorised circumstances (not covered by another appropriate code/description)", but this is statistically recorded as an absence and Head Teachers may not want to compromise their school record in this manner. Also, as stated above, the DCSF guidance, although not statutory, does advise sparing use of Code C.pproved educational activity not covered by other codes and descriptions

 Other approved educational activity not covered by other codes and descriptions

Other approved educational activity not covered by other codes and descriptions




Will the child be covered by the school’s insurance?




Yes. While the child is in the school’s care the insurance will be valid. While the child is not in the school’s care, s/he is the responsibility of the parent, therefore school insurance is not required.




Will the school receive funding for a child attending only part of the time?


Yes, the child usually attracts a full funding quota.

However, the DCSF have said:

"The Local Authority may decide to provide a school pro rata funding for the days the pupil is actually attending school. It is for LAs to fund schools through a local formula.


"If the school considers that the formula delivers insufficient resource in meeting the needs of the school, then the governing body may wish to bring its views about the local funding formula to the attention of the authority or conversely, the school representative on the local Schools Forum.


"The Local Authority is best placed to meet the need of its schools in their area and to work with schools to ensure that resources are applied and managed effectively to deliver the highest possible standards of education."


If your LA is providing school funds pro-rata, it therefore seems that DCSF think it is possible to challenge the decision.



Will the National Curriculum apply?


Yes. When a child becomes a registered pupil the National Curriculum (NC) must be applied whilst the child is in attendance at school. It will be the responsibility of the parent and the school to ensure that the child follows the National Curriculum at school. However the overall responsibility for ensuring a suitable education lies, as in all instances, with the parent and, as in full-time education otherwiswe than at school, that does not have to entail adherance to the full NC. Therefore, when the child is not in school the parent may choose whether or not to apply the National Curriculum.



Will the child be included in SATs and GCSEs?


Yes. The child may take the SATs and GCSEs. As with other pupils, if the child does not take the SATs they will attract a zero rating. Part-time attendees will also be included in league table statistics. There is no evidence to suggest that children who attend on a part-time basis will not do as well in these tests as full-time pupils.


How can the class teachers assess a child’s progress when the child is not attending every lesson?


The responsibility for assessing overall progress lies with the parent. The school teacher will only need to be satisfied that the child is progressing in the lessons s/he delivers.


What will the Local Authority need to do?


Decisions about part-time attendance are entirely controlled by the Education Act 1996 section 444. This means that the head of the school has jurisdiction over such decisions. The role of the LA is the same as with any other child of compulsory education age. That is, the LA are bound by the Education Act 1996 section 437 which requires that should it appear to an LA that a child may not be receiving a suitable education, they have a duty to approach the parent. The LA cannot decide whether or not part-time arrangements are made and cannot specify how any such arrangements are timetabled. Some LAs have a policy of advising head teachers against part-time school attendance. Such ultra vires policies are likely to be subject of judicial review.


Some LAs have policies, official or otherwise, about their take on the usefulness of part-time attendance. Their policy and opinion will inevitably be of interest to the Head teachers in their area, but it would be unfortunate if Head teachers were not able to exercise their jurisdiction in this area because of oppresive LA policies.


In light of DCSF advise on the issue, it would also be rather unwise for LA's to advise anything other than that part-time attendance (flexi-time schooling) is a viable, legal alternative to full-time attendance that has the full backing of government initiatives and the Secretary of State for Education's own ideals.





 Thanks and Invitation


Thank you to those parents who advised about their succesfsul part-time arrangements to help put this page together.


AHEd would welcome any case histories to support this page. Please post them yourself or contact AHEd to post them on your behalf.



 Yet to come


further issues to be addressed on this page in due course:





Redress where arrangements appear to fail

Social aspects



please e-mail us if there are any other flexi-time issues you would like to see addressed here.


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