Flexi-schools

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Overview

Flexi-schooling can be 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 quoted in Oliver 2000 p.1).

Flexi-schooling encourages the participation of both teachers and pupils in children’s education. It also enables children to be more autonomous and encourage learning for oneself. It is choosing how, where, when and with whom a child is taught.

Flexi-schooling can lead to schools becoming open centers for learning, mimicking such establishments as adult education colleges and open universities. This encompasses “loco centric” and distance learning. The curriculum is decided upon to suit the individual needs of the child. A learning contract or personal learning plan can be agreed and this will encompass the practical arrangements such as a timetable and a curriculum.

Flexi-schooling is particularly useful for children who are ill, have a school phobia or require a staged return to school after a prolonged absence.

Flexi-time arrangements can be so many days or part days per week, but it can also be full time in school for a block of weeks and then out of school for another block of weeks. It is negotiated with the school.

In the USA flexible week arrangements are called Independent Study Programmes (ISPs) and they are becoming more popular. A member of staff who has been fully trained will negotiate the timetable with the families concerned.

As with any type of alternative education there are legal implications that need to be addressed. Deutsch and Wolf (1991 quoted in Oliver 2001 pp.1-2) state that in the UK:

“Combining schooling and non-schooling education in any proportion is perfectly legal, provided that the net effect is to provide proper education for the child”

Section 7 of the United Kingdom 1996 Education Act states: “Full-time attendance at school or otherwise” – ‘otherwise’ being taken to mean home education. Flexi schooling encompasses both of these.

In the UK flexi-schooling is entirely at the discretion of a school’s headteacher and governing body. Any school maintained or independent may accommodate flexi-schooling if it so desires; it is not under any obligation to do so and no reason has to be given. Full-time education is an absolute right but flexi-schooling is not and the school can refuse on arbitrary grounds. If the school has not granted permission then any leave would not be authorized and the Local Education Authority (LEA) would take the relevant action against the parents/guardians of the child. If permission is granted then as with home schooling an inspector can visit at home to ensure that the child is being taught appropriately.

There are many advantages to flexi-schooling:

  • Children can benefit from individual tuition and group tuition.
  • There does not need to be a single location for education, children can learn from a wider range of environments such as libraries, museums and farms.
  • Children can learn autonomously.
  • Parents can learn with their child to a greater degree and have an active educational role.
  • Parents and schools can work co-operatively rather than in adversarial roles.
  • Parents are able to undertake flexible working hours.
  • Children are more highly motivated while at school for shorter hours.
  • There can be cost saving effects for the school, as there are fewer resources required.
  • There will be smaller class sizes when the flexi-pupils are not in school.

There are also disadvantages to be taken into account:

  • As schools are not under any obligation to partake in flexi schooling, it may not be the school that the parents would have preferred their child to be taught in.
  • The children may be viewed as eccentric.
  • Loose friendship ties within school may occur.
  • Unfinished or disrupted project work.
  • Recording work that is not achieved at school may require extra input.
  • Schools often anticipate discipline problems.
  • SAT and GCSE results may be lower as the full curriculum has not been covered; this may affect the schools league table position.

Sources

Bromley Education, .http://www.bromley.gov.uk/content/educ/pupil_support/pupil_support_call_guides/flexi_schooling.html (visited 7-July-05)

Deutsch, D. and Wolf, K. (1991) Home Education and the Law, second edition, Oxford.

Meighan, Ronald (1988) Flexi-schooling, Education now Books.

Lacey, L. (2001) If you ask me…., Education Guardian. http://www.EducationGuardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,588125.html (visited 8-July-05)

DfES (??) Elective Home education information Leaflet http://www.parentscentre.gov.uk/whatchildrenlearn/learningathomeoutsideschool/electivehomeeducation/?asset=document&id=12779 (Visited 19-July-05)

Oliver, Kate (2000) Flexi-time Schooling: towards fliexi-schooling and flexi-education, http://flexitimeschooling.info/ (Visited 21-July-05)

Useful links

Education Otherwise Flexi-schooling leaflet
This leaflet provides useful info about what Flexi-schooling is, what the law says about it, and practical suggestions about how to go about it. http://www.education-otherwise.org/Publications%20Files/Leaflets/FlexiSchooling.htm (visited 10-Oct-06)

Curriculum online
This site gives pupils, parents and teachers access to thousands of resources and online activities relevant to Key Stage 1 & 2, Special Needs and Early Years.
http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk (Visited 19-July-05)

Human Scale Education
This site gives News and information about alternatives in education and a holistic approach to learning. This includes flexi-schooling and home educating.
http://www.ink.uk.com/hsen.htm (Visited 19-July-05)

Parent Centre
This provides information on home education.
http://www.parentcentre.gov.uk (Visited 19-July-05)

Full Service Extended Education - Home Education (FSEE-HE)
This programme, which is based in Bedfordshire, provides a form of flexi-schooling for home educated children. Funding is provided to support their learing (at home) in return for which evidence (in the form of: a daily diary of learning (in the broadest sense), termly reports and SATS/GCSE results) is provided in order to demonstrate that the funding is being used appropriately.
http://fses-he.org.uk/ (visited 4-Nov-06)