Flexischooling, OFSTED and Other External Inspection
Understandably, headteachers, governors and staff are concerned about the impact of flexischooling on external inspection particularly from Ofsted. Peter looks at some of the available evidence
It is hoped that ongoing engagement with government and its agencies will bring clarity and guidance offering reassurance to schools about informed and fair external inspection. This dialogue is at the early stages but the evidence from actual inspections is very positive.
We should not be surprised at this. A great number of families who choose to home-educate do so because their child has really specific needs which may include Special Educational Needs, Gifted and Talented or other additional needs. The schooling system has not got the best track record of serving these children and families. Its rigid curriculum, customs and practice present an enormous barrier for which parents can feel excluded, and they often leave exhausted with the difficulties of engaging and unhappiness at lack of progress of their children. They act as any good parent would in the best interest of their children and family.
The characteristics of the schools that are prepared to accommodate flexischooling include the willingness to put the learner first and adapt to their needs.
The aim of our approach to flexi-schooling is to provide an opportunity for those who choose to educate at home to come together and receive additional support opportunities to adopt a wider range of creative approaches to teaching as well as learning, reinforcing our already high standards of pupil nurturing within the school community. (Howard Primary School, Tamworth)
They go the extra mile in their partnership with parents and provide an atmosphere where there is a productive ongoing shared dialogue. Those accommodating flexischooling make it a feature and virtue of their school communities.
Electing to Home Educate is a bold step for any family, it’s a decision not taken lightly or without good cause.
We do not use our Flexi-schooling approach to force home educators back into the mainstream by using it as a short term arrangement. Our experience shows that parents who have made this choice know what is right for their child or children.
Our parents who Home Educate come from well outside our normal catchment area and it is clear the dedication these parents have to their choice to support their child or children’s educational development in this way.
Here at Hollinsclough Primary we can tailor our support to suit your needs and work with you to facilitate the desire to Home Educate your children.
Our tailored Flexi-school provision can range from Technical Support, Top up lessons, Assessments (inc AEN), Advice, Projects, Administrative Assistance, Equipment, and Consumables, to your children gaining access to swimming lessons, sports competitions and extended social interaction and other enhancement activities, events and excursions.
(Hollinsclough Primary, North Staffordshire)
We are able accommodate the needs of individual children and families on a ‘flexi’, home and school basis. We enjoy very good communication with families. For example we invite our whole school community to be part of our regular ‘Hub Days’. Hub Days have a mutually chosen focus and provide access to our resources. We have beautiful grounds a dedicated Forest Schools area, outdoor classroom, library, extensive ICT facilities, supportive staff and high quality teaching expertise. Plus of course the opportunity for parents and children to talk, learn and play together. Our curriculum offer is active, first hand and relevant
(Erpingham Primary, Norfolk)
These should be characteristics of all schools, but sadly experience proves this is not the case. It is clear that whatever misgivings public, parents and schools may have with Ofsted and the kind of narrow metrics they adopt, that currently they are acknowledging the work being done in flexischools and the high degrees of learner and parent satisfaction with the arrangements. This is similarly replicated in other forms of inspection and evaluation.
OFSTED May 2012. Erpingham Primary School
Achievement is good. All pupils achieve well from their different starting points. Outstanding engagement with parents and carers ensures that the work pupils do at school and at home dovetails well, enabling them to make good progress however many days they are in school each week.
Teaching is consistently good. Teachers are skilled at making learning enjoyable and challenging, and pitch work to meet the wide range of needs in their mixed-age classes.
The school is led and managed well. The headteacher leads by example and has built an energetic and enthusiastic staff team, who all contribute to the school’s caring atmosphere and reflect upon their practice to drive forward improvement.
Lessons are well organised to meet the wide range of abilities and ages represented in each class, and to take account of the needs of pupils who attend part-time. There is outstanding communication between the parents and carers of ‘flexischool’ pupils and teachers to ensure that all parties know what pupils are learning and are able to build on their achievements.
The innovative and imaginative ‘flexischool’ approach works extremely successfully because of leaders’ willingness to accommodate the individual needs of pupils and the wishes of their families. As a result, parents and carers have enormous confidence in staff to develop the whole child and have, in their turn, become great ambassadors for the school. The very rapid rise in numbers is due to personal recommendations, especially among families who prefer to educate their children at home for part of the week. One, whose child now attends full time, said, ‘He kept wanting to come because he enjoyed it so much
National Society Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools (SIAS) Report. July 2012 Erpingham Primary School
Erpingham is a school with the needs of individual children at its heart. This is demonstrated in the caring, inclusive and mutually supportive nature of the school, as well as in the carefully organised pattern of personalised flexischooling arrangements.
The school’s Christian ethos and values are shared with the families of all prospective pupils and form the bedrock on which the differing learning relationships are built. In this family-style atmosphere pupils are enabled to flourish, a parent reported: ‘it’s changed my son’s life and it’s changed my life’.
OFSTED September 2011. Howard Primary School
The school provides a good education for all its pupils. Consequently, pupils are happy in school, enjoy learning and achieve well.
Outstanding care, guidance and support, linked to the consistent reinforcement of moral values and positive role models provided by adults, means that the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Boys and girls from different backgrounds get on well together.
Those that are new to the school are helped exceptionally well to settle in quickly through the good relationships that adults soon establish with them, and through the friendly welcome and support of classmates. As a result of the school’s good provision and nurturing ethos, by the time that they reach year 6 pupils are mature and reflective young people. They have high self-esteem and are prepared well for their move to secondary school and beyond.