Current Reality

Background and Current Reality

Flexischooling has a long, successful and honourable history. It is beneficial to children, parents, schools, communities and the country at large. Elsewhere in the world, for example British Columbia, it is considered to be a credible option as valid as full-time school attendance.

As advocates of flexischooling we recognise the administrative arrangements require greater clarity. The attendance codes were not designed with flexischooling in mind, therefore schools have needed to take best-fit decisions.

It’s not hard to see how we have arrived at the current position: the law has allowed flexischooling yet there has been no active promotion of it. It appears that successive governments have been unaware of the extent of flexischooling and not felt the need to provide parents, local authorities or schools with sufficient information or guidance. The guidance and legislation that exists is complex, inflexible in practice.

Flexischooling has always been a local agreement negotiated by families, headteachers and governors. Parents who pursue flexischooling have had to be determined and committed as local authorities, schools, teachers, parents and students are often unaware of the practice, or indeed any alternatives to full-time schooling. In addition, the reputation of flexischooling is distorted with unhelpful, stereotypes, inaccuracies and disinformation. It’s unlikely to be found in university-based initial teacher education or school-based teacher training pathways.

At local authority level, officers with a background in education were traditionally employed to oversee elective home education, education other than at school, and flexischooling. These officers typically had good educational knowledge and strong relationships with alternative education providers. Sadly, cutbacks and a growing emphasis on numbers rather than pedagogy have led to these staff being replaced by those with a background in education welfare or attendance. In turn, this has led to a less sympathetic approach toward flexischooling and other alternatives to traditional schooling. These departments tend to be focussed on attendance and imagined safeguarding issues at the expense of tangible educational outcomes. Many have failed to meet their obligations under the Elective Home Education Guidelines 2007 section 5.6 to ‘… make sure that head teachers are made familiar with flexischooling and how it may work in practice.’ Similar changes or lack of continuity in staff may have occurred at the DfE and contributed to the current situation.

There is clearly a problem or challenge here and we’d argue that more needs to be done to raise understanding about flexischooling to address the information vacuum. Flexischooling provides benefits for learners, families, schools, communities and government. It offers something quite unique and special of which this country can and should be really proud.

The most obvious consideration now is to look comprehensively at flexischooling and how it can be accommodated within the legal, funding, registration and guideline structures. This will necessitate a pause and consultation with those involved. It would be advantageous to secure a cross-party understanding of the place and contributions of flexischooling to the educational landscape. Once established the bureaucratic and administrative procedures and safeguards can be put in place and regular sensible review scheduled.

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