What is Flexi-schooling?
Also known as flexible school attendance, flexi-schooling is a way in which children can attend school part-time – legally. It is estimated that about 450 pupils, mainly primary school students, were being flexi-schooled in the country in 2010, and that number is expected to grow rapidly.
Proponents of the scheme say it allows children to forge closer bonds with their parents, learn about subjects which pique their interest in-depth, and have the opportunity to broaden their minds outside the traditional classroom experience.
But opponents of flexi-schooling says it can be confusing for children, put them at a disadvantage when it comes to making school friends and taking standardised exams, and put undue pressure on parents, many of whom know nothing about teaching…
Is Flexi-Schooling Legal?Flexi-schooling is usually considered a legal option for parents, but the headteacher at the school must agree to it. Such requirements or concerns the headteacher might voice could include:
- Whether or not the child has met a specific attendance requirement.
- Whether the child is due to take his or her SAT’s, although most flexis-schoolers agree to be in school during this time.
- Concern over whether flexi-schoolers will affect the school’s absentee record, although if the child is registered as being schooled offsite, this will not happen. Schools will receive full funding for pupils who are being flexi-schooled.
In addition, while there is no statutory curriculum which parents must follow whilst educating their children at home, pupils must follow the National Curriculum when they are back in school.
This can be waived if they have a statement of special educational needs, on a temporary basis if they are ill or have a family crisis, or if they have special dispensation during a specific period to allow other types of curriculum development to take place.
Please note that if the school or local authority believes that the flexi-schooling arrangement at home is not suitable to the child’s needs, it is up to the parents to prove that it is.
How It WorksParents usually approach their child’s teacher, and headteacher, with a proposal to flexi-school their child. It is highly recommended that parents provide a written proposal outlining the days the child will be schooled at home, and the days he or she will formally attend school.
The proposal could also include technicalities such as what provisions will be made if their flexi-school hours fall during assembly/school trip/school play times; provisions for unexplained absences, and how any possible disputes will be resolved.
Often, headteachers will give permission for flexi-schooling to take place only for a specified period of time, after which a review process will take place.
Advantages of Flexi-SchoolingBoth parents and educators sit on both sides of the debate about whether flexi-schooling is a good idea. Some of the advantages of the scheme are that it:
- Allows parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children.
- Gives children the opportunity to learn more in-depth than they might at school, with more out-of-school trips and individual adult attention.
- Gives younger or less mature children more time to adjust to school. Some parents feel their children are not ready to start full-time school when others do, and believe this gives them a time to catch up with their peers.
- Allows children who are recovering for a protracted illness the freedom to start school again on a gradual basis.
- Gives children who were home-schooled and want to eventually return to school full-time a way to do this slowly. Often, children who have been home-schooled find the transition to full-time school difficult to make, and flexi-schooling provides them with an easier transition period.
Disadvantages of Flexi-SchoolingSome of the perceived disadvantages of flexi-schooling could include:
- Unfair on other children. Kids who attend school part-time might resent the fact that their peers do not have to attend five days a week, and get to participate in other activities such as museum and zoo outings while they are in the classroom.
- Harder for child to re-acclimate to school. Children who find it difficult to adjust to school might find it even harder if they are allowed to spend several days a week at home with Mummy or Daddy.
- Can affect the children’s standardised test scores, if they are not taught in the same way that the school teaches in preparation for exams/tests.
- Can make it difficult for children to forge strong friendships at school as they may be absent when the friendships are forged.
- Can become boring if a lot of imagination and creativity is not put into teaching – and learning.
Is Flexi-Schooling for You?
Flexi-schooling can work well for some children, if the parents have the time, energy and resources to devote to schooling their children part-time outside of a traditional school environment.
But flexi-schooling is not for everybody, and not every parent is suitable to teach children at home. Think long and hard if you are considering this option, and discuss it with other parents who have made the leap. It might revolutionise your child’s learning – or it might have the opposite effect!