Flexible Schooling

(30 Posts)
alanyoung Tue 22-Jan-13 20:14:56

My daughter has a five year old boy and she herself was a deputy head before having her children. Although she is a great supporter of state education, she would like to take him out of school for about fifteen days per year on educational visits so that he does not become too regimented in thinking that the school approach is the only way in life and to help him understand that it is fine to have a point of view that may be different to other people's. Also to let him experience things that cannot be experienced at school or only superficially.

When she approached the Head about this, she was quite happy as she knew my daughter would give him excellent experiences as she had the experience and background to do so. These would not count as absences of any kind - he would just be marked in the register as being educated off site.

Unfortunately, the Head then thought she ought to get the opinions of other people like the Governors, the Advisory staff etc, and guess what they came back with - the very stereotypical answers that she wants her son to avoid developing:

a) Why can't she take him during the holidays? (Ans: because she wants to have the time and space to ensure he gets the very best out of these experiences when popular sites are not overcrowded)

b) This is a very popular school and if we are going to have a pupil who takes time out, we could give the place to someone else.

c)Why can't she send him to a private school (Steiner)? (Ans: because they are fee paying!)

d) etc

It seems to me that if flexible schooling is legal, then no-one should object provided it is done properly. Does anyone else have any experience of this?

I know legally it is up to the Head, but in practice it's the class teacher who will be most affected. 15 days in a year may not sound like that much, but it's a day off every fortnight on average, which may be disruptive to him and the class.

I think the Head is right to get other opinions, though I don't think the Governors are the right people to talk to.

alanyoung Tue 22-Jan-13 20:54:13

Thanks AMumInScotland, but he is only five years old and not coming up to important examinations. I am not sure it would cause that much disruption, do you think?

He will miss what the rest of the class are doing in literacy and numeracy those days. He will miss parts of their project work. He will miss interesting and fun things that happened to everyone else and which he wasn't there for. He will miss being part of the games that they play at lunch and break times.

I'm not saying it can't be managed, but I think the Head and others have valid reasons for thinking it is not a completely "neutral" decision from the school's point of view, and that the quality of "educational experience" which your daughter can provde is not the only factor that should be considered.

I don't have a problem with flexi schooling as a whole, but I think you are naive in thinking "no-one should object" as if there were no down-sides to the experience.

numbum Tue 22-Jan-13 22:11:05

And what happens when the parents of every other child in the school realises what your DD has been allowed to do? They'll all want 15 extra days off!

It baffles me how some parents think different rules apply to them. If she's not happy then she'll have to home educate!

Saracen Wed 23-Jan-13 00:55:07

I agree with you in principle that some time out of school would be a good thing for the boy, but school staff are under a lot of pressure and are not always free to act in the best interests of an individual child. They are between a rock and a hard place.

I can see how the proposed arrangement could cause inconveniences to the school. They are not used to having to juggle other people's schedules. And while your daughter recognises that the school approach is not the only way in life, many other educators and parents disagree vehemently and will insist that your grandson is going to fall hopelessly behind if he misses 15 days of school in a year.

Perhaps your daughter could take him out of school for an entire year, now or at at some later point, in order to give him a different perspective on learning? No one can refuse her permission to do that! However, as you say it is a popular school then he may not get in again when he wants to return, and might have to go to a different school. If she doesn't want to home ed in the longer term, Year Six could be a good time for him to have a year out of school, as the school place wouldn't be an issue.

volley Wed 23-Jan-13 06:41:06

saracen why is a school place not a problem when you get to year 6? Does something change, I'm not involved in the school system stuff right now so haven't a clue!

I think saracen means if she takes him out for a year in year 6, he won't have to worry about losing his school place because he would be leaving that school anyway.

WRT the 15 days, I think you need to understand to understand that if your dd with the best educational intentions takes 15 days off, a lot of people will assume its ok to do the same which would cause chaos tbh.

Is she planning on doing this every year or just the first year?

I would say if she feels so passionately about this she will have to look into other options, home Ed for example as you cannot expect the school to cater for one persons alternative view to school.

magichamster Wed 23-Jan-13 07:04:02

Does she definitely want her ds to go to that particular school? There are a couple of schools where I live that actively encourage flex schooling, so she might find other schools a bit more accommodating.

I have to say that I would be a bit annoyed if my request for a holiday in term time was turned down, knowing that another child was being allowed time off like this. We all want to take children to places when they're not busy, but school means that this is not always possible. I should probably add to this that I have never taken my dc's out of school for holidays or trips to museums.

Someone else mentioned taking a year off in year 6 to home ed and do all these things and I think that is a good option.

MirandaWest Wed 23-Jan-13 07:06:40

I think the wanting to take him to museums when it's school time sounds a bit precious tbh (and there's likely to be school trips going on then anyway). It is very possible to get something out of weekend and holiday vists I promise smile

alanyoung Wed 23-Jan-13 08:10:17

Thanks for your comments and you all seem to agree it's a bad thing. But if it's that bad, why is it legally possibly to do it? Someone must have thought it was a good idea!

tiggytape Wed 23-Jan-13 09:03:41

It was / is a possibility to have term time holiday but schools are now under huge pressure to reject this. Many LAs have policies that term time holiday will not be granted in anything other than very exceptional circumstances. A mother was recently fined for taking her son out of school to attend her own wedding. Those who have allowed it in the past are under increasing pressure to stop permitting it and also to issue fines.

From MN it seems there are still some regions where schools are super flexible and allow holidays but in the main, it is something Heads are told not to authorise even if they personally have no problem with it.

As others have said, the disruption to the rest of the class is probably a big factor here as would be issues of fairness over other holiday requests. They can hardly tell parents that one child is allowed time off because his Mum is a teacher and therefore qualified to ensure his holiday is educational whereas their own request for time off is blocked because they aren't.

volley Wed 23-Jan-13 09:20:41

duh! Thanks tantrums see I really know nothing about school system!!

bowerbird Wed 23-Jan-13 09:31:54

I disagree with the posters. It's called "flexi-schooling". It's allowed (with permission from the head), legal and not particularly precious.

People choose this for all kinds of reasons. I flexi-schooled my DD for two terms in Y2 because I felt she could benefit from the one-to-one for one to two afternoons a week (started with two, then went to one). We did some maths, reading, and music in a non-pressurised way. It helped her improve her basic skills, and broaden her musical education, and this didn't have to be crammed into the week's/weekend schedule.

My DD goes to state school, there are thirty kids in her class, and for a while she just wasn't thriving, so I took action by flexi-schooling. She's now back on a "normal" schedule, but I wouldn't hesitate to do the same thing if I felt it was right.

tiggytape Wed 23-Jan-13 09:35:30

The term flexi-schooling normally applies to a regular, often weekly arrangement of sharing education between home and school. It is normally agreed in advance and a regular schedule of some sort is set.

It doesn't apply to taking 15 ad-hoc days off school throughout the school year and I think any Head would have grave difficulty persuading the Governors that it did.

constantnamechanger Wed 23-Jan-13 09:41:00

I too have considered approaching the school about exactly this, I feel DC are missing a lot now they are always in school

constantnamechanger Wed 23-Jan-13 09:45:03

Id like 2 afternoons/mornings a week to do exactly this, yes the weekends are their but they are too busy.

bowerbird Wed 23-Jan-13 09:59:41

Yes, I see you point tiggy. Much better to approach with a regular weekly plan of half-day off, than 15 random days off throughout the year.

As I said above, I'm not against it - in fact my DS did it for a year, later in school - he had one "column" of his secondary timetable when he was out of school. But it was a regular agreed arrangement. The school needed to know things like -

How will it be scheduled to minimise disruption to both this pupil and the others?

What specific work will the pupil be covering during that time?

What supervision will be in place?

And, crucially, how can the school avoid encouraging everyone else to ask for something similar when they hear about it?

Since it was one specific timetable slot, he was working towards a recognised qualification, and a parent was in the house to supervise, they felt able to agree it without too much worry that they'd be opening a floodgate.

I know that is different from what might be beneficial to a 5 year old, but the question of "What about when everyone else wants the same?" remains a big problem for schools. You are rightly focussed on what might be beneficial to one child and one family, and the downsides may be minor in comparison to the benefits he would get from the arrangement.

But the school have to consider all the children - if two or three children in a class did the same, randomly missing school on different days, or if parents used this as an argument for taking holidays in termtime, or long weekends, then the disruption increases. The teacher then spends a higher proportion of the day making sure those children catch up.

If you want the benefits of school, then to an extent you have to agree to go along with what works for them, even if it is not the ideal for you. If you feel that is too much of a compromise, then HE is always available as an option. We did that for 2 years beacuse it gave us options that school simply couldn't.

christinecagney Wed 23-Jan-13 21:23:39

I am a HT and have flexi schooled children at my school but having taken extensive advice on the subject, I cannot code them as educated off site on their home days, so they are just authorised absent and that shows up on my attendance figures. I am happy to argue my case to ofsted but not all HTs might be...

I was told that educated off site is for children attending registered providers, arranged by the school, and with the school taking full repsonsibility for the outcomes and safety of of the child. For example, a child who attends a specialist behaviour support unit for 2 days a week with full and close liaison between school and and the unit including staff visiting regularly to check on the child etc.

OP the situation you describe wouldn't be able to be covered by this.

bowerbird Thu 24-Jan-13 10:20:43

That's interesting christine, as when I flexi-schooled my DD it was coded as "educated off-site" and we were just at home. I think the guidelines are very vague - for parents, for HTs and some LEAs don't know how to advise.

constantnamechanger Thu 24-Jan-13 10:52:37

official flexible schooling here is classed as educated off site as well

constantnamechanger Thu 24-Jan-13 10:53:31

*here as well

christinecagney Thu 24-Jan-13 20:54:18

Changed since new ofsted framework I think, ...there's a reason but I can't remember why, sorry.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 00:03:12

I think what agitates me about these OFSTED changes is that they give with one hand and take away with another. They promise freedom of choice for the parents, but then undercut it with financial policies.

Thus, children are now entitled to start school in September, and have the right to delay until later in the year. But now the funding is set in October the school will certainly put pressure on parents to send their children in the autumn/winter term - even if the children are teeny weeny and, like me, parents do not believe it is in their child's best interest to go to school so young.

Same with flexi-schooling: head-teachers have the right to grant it and, previously, flexi schooled children could be marked as educated off site AND the school got full funding. Then there was a period where the school lost money proportionate to the number of days the children were absent (which is obviously a massive disincentive for the headteacher). And now the school gets the money - as the children are still full-time but marked as authorised absence - which affects the attendance statistics and is therefore a deterrent to those headteachers who want to tick boxes... rather than do what is in the best interest of individual children.

Christine Cagney: I salute you!

constantnamechanger Fri 25-Jan-13 04:13:43

yes I have room send dd to nursery in September or the following year, January would be far more appropriate but it's not a choice.

as it is I am just going to take a place but keep her hone 2/3 mornings a week - seems silly to me.

Pythonesque Fri 25-Jan-13 10:05:14

My eldest niece did 4 days a week at school in year 1, I think they had to sign "home ed" forms of some sort and wrote a brief curriculum of what they were doing on the 5th day. My sister was home on maternity leave for most of that year (and they could juggle things for the 3rd term). They used the day out for excursions (they're in London) that could be much more relaxed than juggling a baby and child on weekends; as well as doing a bit of more formal schoolwork first thing in the mornings. If there were particular things going on in school that were worth getting to on her usual day out then they rearranged the plans that week.

It wasn't her idea, a friend of hers was already doing a similar thing and suggested it. Obviously the head teacher was supportive. It worked very well for a small number of families in the school. The next year, my sister was again going to be on maternity leave for much of the year and it seemed sensible to continue the arrangement. Unfortunately the head teacher changed and the new one just said a flat no to everyone involved straight out. A shame.

(My sister's job involves a lot of afternoon/evening work so her girls don't see her much after school, an extra reason for making the most of time when she had it). I don't think she'd have tried to continue the arrangement past year 2 or 3 (the eldest is now year 4, next one is in preschool nursery year).

ItsIcyOutsideIThinkINeedThorin Fri 25-Jan-13 10:23:31

Flexi-schooling can definitely be put down as educated off-site and not authorised absence (I do this with my DD). You don't have to be a registered provider, you just have to be 'approved by the school'.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 15:13:31

This is from edyourself.org which provides information about homeschooling/flexi-schooling and the law... educated off site - code b - is still in effect it seems.

Flexischooling

In a flexi-schooling arrangement children are registered as pupils at the school and attend part-time, but spend other parts of the week being educated off-site by their parents. This arrangement is a matter for the head teacher, rather than the local authority, to negotiate with parents. The child will be required to follow the National Curriculum whilst at school but not whilst he or she is being educated at home. Since the child is a registered pupil at the school, this is technically NOT home education, though the families concerned may consider themselves to be in part-time school and part-time home education.

Code B

The school register should be marked Code B

Brief Description = Educated off site (NOT Dual registration)
Statistical Meaning = Approved Educational Activity
Legal Meaning = Attending approved educational activity
Physical Meaning = Out for whole session
Definition = Where a registered pupil on roll is currently being educated off-site at a supervised activity approved by the school.

"Code B 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."
http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/k/keeping%20pupil%20registers%20-%20guidance%20on%20applying%20the%20education%20pupil%20registration%20regulations.pdf

christinecagney Sat 26-Jan-13 10:52:21

Ooh that's interesting expansive girth. I'll go back to my LA with that. The 'approved' bit is where they said that approved = responsible for, which obviously I can't be as I am not with the child on the days s/he is at home. And thanks for the salute! I am old gimmer HT and have been inspected so many times that I have learnt to be quite ahem 'forthcoming ' with my views with inspectors. I suspect they like it really as it livens up their job!

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