Over and above the general context described in the Current Reality parents and carers may find a range of specific challenges when looking to arrange a flexischooling agreement.
Information The likelihood of headteachers being fully informed is quite rare. Most may not have come across the concept and most will not have experienced taking on flexi-learners. The first hurdle is providing and pointing them towards information. Without it headteachers will understandably go straight to local authorities where the response may be luke-warm, misinformed or worse. This website and the accompanying files and documents should now fill the information vacuum for all parties and give everyone the information with which to make their case. It’s worth stressing once more that the decision is a local school decision at the ultimate discretion of the headteacher.
Finding a School. It is impossible to detail every school who will accept flexischoolers. The situation remains that the majority of schools have never been approached and most still do not know of the concept and possibility. Matters are further complicated by some schools and some flexischooling families wishing to remain under the radar. Added to this, contexts will change over time and settings may become more or less flexi-positive according to issues like capacity, staffing and so on.
At the end of the day most families will approach settings they know or can access until they find a receptive welcome. In some areas, this can be a difficult and disheartening process.
Once over the information and locating hurdles, and, if a school has capacity to take flexi-learner(s) parents may find the headteacher quite positive. There is good reason for this…
Why should schools consider taking flexischoolers?
Pragmatism. Schools will be entitled to full funding whatever the balance of school / home-based learning; increased rolls / sustainability (flexischooling is a proven replicable opportunity to build capacity and create sustainable local schools and communities). A proportion of flexischoolers will go on to take full-time places.
Philosophical reasons. Teachers want to make a difference, to change lives and develop communities. Meeting the needs of individual learners is at its heart. Flexischooling changes lives and has proven to be effective for a range of children and young people. Flexi-parents are usually passionate and highly committed, willing to work in partnership and support settings.
Pedagogy. Experience shows that home-based learners and flexischoolers can bring new dimensions and qualities to the classroom. Flexischoolers often have greater independence and self-management, high levels of thinking, oracy and questioning skills, creativity and persistence. Those settings with larger numbers of flexischoolers have explored high level pedagogical approaches with project based, enquiry-led, research approaches, online e-learning and blended support and so on. The arrival of flexischoolers has prompted curriculum and learning developments.
Progress and achievement. Flexischooling is win – win for parents, learner and school. Like full-time home-based learners flexischoolers will usually go beyond schooling time frames flexibly utilising evenings, weekends and year-round experiences. Normal spectrum and gifted learners can devote sufficient time to their passions and dispositions. Evidence is strongly pointing that autistic spectrum learners can benefit with the flexischooling balance. Other developmental, maturation, physical, learning and emotional needs appear better suited to flexischooling. Schools often find that flexischoolers lead to overall gains in their performance data.
Teachers. However, a welcoming and positive headteacher is not the teacher who will be working with the flexi-learner. The head needs to convince the appropriate teachers and support staff. Without their willingness embrace flexischooling things are unlikely to go well. Teachers are under immense pressure as it is and a flexischoolers may just seem another burden. The head will play their part, but parents/carers who work with the teachers sensitively, liaise and support the arrangement will get the best outcomes. Families are requesting flexibility in their child’s education – it’s only reasonable that they are flexible with teachers in these highly-pressurised times for schools. The irony is deep down most teachers will be sympathetic but the realities of the current contexts make things difficult for them. Take time to develop positive reciprocal relationships and understand that flexischoolers can actually help schools and teachers be the educators they’ve always wanted to be!
Review, Development, Solution Finding and Confidence. It would be quite understandable for schools new to flexischooling to agree quite modest flexischooling arrangements initially as all parties work their way into the idea. With regular formal review (half-termly / termly) in addition to the informal chats on daily / weekly basis mutually beneficial and deeper agreements can be secured. The mindset needs to be solution finding rather than problem identifying! Families need to play their part in building confidence in the relationship. ***
Distance. The likelihood of finding flexi-places in your local school settings would be ideal but often not a reality. However, families seeking the best for the children through flexischooling have shown enormous commitment and a sacrifice in order to get to flexi-settings further afield. Home-based educators have long been used to this dedication and show enormous creativity in making it work. Over time as flexischooling becomes more widely known as a credible option it is hoped that distance will cease to be such an issue.
Secondary flexi-opportunities. At this moment in time we are aware that flexischooling is more available in primary schools. This has probably arisen because the recent surge in families requesting flexischooling has been with the younger ages and the demand hasn’t yet worked through to the secondary phase. There is no fundamental reason why flexischooling at the secondary level is problematic. Indeed, it should be far simpler to organise and facilitate. The scope for real innovation and deeper notions of flexischooling is excellent. There is a job for the flexischooling campaign to engage with the secondary phase and prospective parents to get in early and pave the way. Families enjoying primary flexischooling would be best advised not wait until the transition but be liaise with secondary settings in advance.
Hollinsclough CofE Primary Flexischool Academy researched and dispelled some of the perceived challenges of flexischooling.
Perceived Disadvantages of Flexischooling
Unfair on other children. Children who attend school full-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. In practice, we have never seen evidence of this.
Harder for child to re-acclimatise 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. In practice, we have only found this to be the case with children who attended infrequently or irregularly.
Can make it difficult for children to forge strong friendships at school as they may be absent when the friendships are forged. In practice, we have never seen this. Moreover, children are made to feel really welcome because their friends have missed them.