Arguments aside the reality is we are talking about the lives of children, young people and their families. They deserve the best they can get. We all know some children are not suited to schools and that some schools are not suited to children.
These are just a small collection of testimonies that should prompt us all into making flexischooling work and promoting its efficacy for some families and some schools.
Testimonies drawn from various members of the Facebook Networks for Flexischooling and Flexischooling Families UK
My boys are now 7 and 10 yrs. old and have been flexi-schooled all through their primary school years.
They attend school on Mon – Weds. They’re part of a Wood school on Thursdays. On Fridays we share a day together as a family, participating in wider learning experiences. Both boys are in the highest achieving groups in their classes.Both are very articulate and bright. Both are thriving in their learning, I believe, because of flexi-schooling, not despite it. Both struggle with the school environment. The boys are both ‘highly sensitive’ and they just about manage the three days in school. The older son finds school especially difficult as he struggles with sensory overload, especially with a high volume of noise and sounds coming from various directions. All this while trying to follow instructions and stay focussed.
He says he is regularly ‘appalled’ at the behaviour of some of the children in his class. He says he can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to go to school. He is verbally bullied on a regular basis and doesn’t feel he fits in.
He says he has no friends in his class. He says it’s all tests now. (Year 5)
The younger son would rather stay at home as he is very shy, but he does have friends at school and enjoys the sports. He gets distracted easily, however, so is often told to hurry up with his work, which upsets him as he so wants to please.
The school system is not ideal for these children. But both my husband and I work part-time, and it is difficult to see how we could fully home-educate. Flexi-schooling allows for breathing space. It provides the opportunity for a much wider learning to take place, in their much -valued Wood school community, as well as with the family out and about on Fridays, when National Trust properties, museums, art galleries etc. are not busy.
We are so very grateful that it is an option. I have no idea what we’ll do if it should cease to be so.
My daughter is currently flexi schooling two days a week. We home educated exclusively until 4 months ago, when we decided to try flexi schooling. It works really well for us and she enjoys it and seems to be absorbing information and making friends, losing this would be a huge loss for her and would be very disappointing as it works well but we would never do full-time school as it would be too much for her to cope with in so many ways. I am a Qualified Teacher (Primary and Special Needs) from an EU country with QTS in England, working currently as a one-to-one Teaching Assistant for a child with SEN in mainstream education and as self-employed Music Teacher. I have two boys, 4 and 2 years old, both born in the UK and fluent in English. I have always wanted to home educate my children but as I found myself a single parent when my youngest was still a baby, full-time HE simply isn’t an option anymore. Apart from other reasons to choose for home education, I have serious reservations about children learning to read and write when they’re only 4 (where I come from, children are 6 when they start Primary School). Now that my eldest is due to start school in September the issue has become rather urgent. When I found out about flexi-schooling I could see how this would work so well for my family. N would be able to access education in English and improve his command of the language whilst at home he could continue to learn my mother tongue which enables him to communicate with his grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Apart from the advantages that come with learning multiple languages at a young age, I feel delaying the education of literacy skills until the child is slightly older has proven to be hugely beneficial to reading and writing skills in the long run. Moreover, my mother tongue is almost entirely phonetic so learning to read that language first will help my son master English Literacy quicker.
Flexischooling is important for my family on an emotional level too. I became a single mum when my (now ex-) husband was abusive towards me which has had an impact on the children’s emotional well being. My youngest witnessed a fair amount of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour towards me when he was a baby and can be extremely anxious as a result. My eldest misses his daddy very much and struggles to come to terms with only seeing him twice a month. Neither of them attends nursery full-time and wouldn’t be able to. They need the security and stability of home to nurture their emotional needs. Considering what our family has been through, the boys are doing incredibly well and are becoming more confident. It is of great importance for my family that I can continue to provide my children the reassurance of home through flexi-schooling. A final thought concerns the potential choice to home educate the children full-time after all. This would effectively mean becoming unemployed and depending on state benefits. Surely this would cost society a lot more than providing a school with full-time funding for a child who attends part-time?
My son, who is 6 in May, has been attending school for 2 days a week since he started reception. Our reasons for flexi-schooling are basically that we believe that it is definitely the best of all worlds. He thoroughly enjoys his two days at school but also loves his 3 days at ‘home’. He is able to appreciate the relative importance of timetables and working on tasks with other children whilst at school and then at home he gets a lot of one on one interaction as well as the chance to participate in a wide range of different activities with the home education community. The arrangement we have is fully supported by the school and they say they have no concerns in the way my son is progressing. His reading is at the level of a 7-8-year-old, so he is not being hampered academically by not attending school full-time. Our family has reached a fantastic balance and we hope to be able to continue this long into the future.
My son who is five and currently in year one has flexi-schooled for the last year and a half, it works perfectly for us and I don’t see why it should it change, he attends a lovely small village school and if it wasn’t for other children flexi-schooling there then the school may well have to face closure due to such small numbers. My son has been classed as higher ability and has been moved up a year for reading and writing, I’m sure this would not have happened had he been attending school full-time, he goes to school twice a week and is educated at home for the other three days, this i feel works in his favour and would do any other child as they are getting one on one tuition without distraction. I have signed up for flexi-schooling with the school he attends and therefore expect him to continue this agreement until he reaches the age of eleven.
….. the government should be doing more to support parents’ decisions to home educate/flexi-school rather than making it more difficult for us. At the age of two our son was diagnosed with severe autism. In the early years, we tried to follow the normal steps of nursery and playschool, however, we found that without considerable one-to-one adult attention he would wonder and engage in isolating and repetitive behaviours and become ever more distant and anxious. We reduced his time in the playgroup and started an intensive home programme encouraging speech and eye contact and teaching him the foundations across many subjects. When he reached school age he started at a local special school. To help him settle in he started on a part time basis and then after six months he started going full-time. During his time at this school we found that very early on he started to become more aggressive, more insular and rapidly regressed in his academic abilities and speech. We persevered and tried to work with the school to improve things but in the end, we lost all confidence in the school and felt that if he remained there his development would be seriously impeded affecting his entire future so we felt we had little choice but to remove him and elect to home educate. We have home schooled now for two years and in that time our son has made incredible progress. However, it was never our intention to home school forever and we are very aware that there are certain things that we cannot provide so easily such as group work and social skills. We are very keen for our son to start school and would like him to work up to three days a week. At the same time, we would very much like to supplement this with a continued home programme. We truly feel that such a combination would provide the most effective and beneficial learning programme for our son. At school, he can be around peers, use the specialist facilities, learn to function in the wider social world, try to form some friendships, work alongside others. Alongside this, in a quieter environment at home we can continue to encourage academic development and focus on areas of weakness, things which our son finds difficult enough at home but in the noisy, distracting school environment are virtually impossible. We very much see the two parts complementing each other to meet his needs.
We have heard of people saying that it’s the parents’ choice to home school but from our own experience we feel this is not always the case and sometimes parents are faced with an educational system that is not structured to meet their child’s full needs. To home educate full-time is a physical and financial struggle and yet at the same time the future is very bleak if we are forced to send our son to school full-time and not see him reach his full potential. For us, there is a very real risk that as our son gets older and bigger at some point we will no longer be able to care for him and he may have to go into care. The thought of this breaks our hearts and yet we have been encouraged by the progress he has made in the last two years and our long-term aim is now that he will develop enough so that he is able to live with us and have some level of independence. For us, this discussion is not about funding, nor about legal responsibility, this is about our son’s life and whether he is destined for a future in care or whether he will be given the opportunity to reach his full potential. So we urge those involved in this process to reconsider and find ways to make flexi schooling agreeable to everyone as we feel it is a necessary educational option.
Flexi-schooling is a fantastic system of education for our family that is enabling our son to flourish academically, physically and emotionally:
- He receives one-to-one attention that is hard to get in a class of 30.
- He gets more time in nature.
- He’s not exhausted by the end of the week and has had one cold in 6 months.
- He spends more time with his grandparents.
- He gets to pursue his love of science.
In the last three weeks, he’s seen the biggest meteor to land in the UK, dug up a real fossil and controlled a ball with the power of his mind at a Science museum. We know he misses parts of the curriculum but to quote a school Governor “He more than gains from this by what he experiences with his family and that’s clear to anyone”. Critically, he enjoys school despite the fact he’d rather be at home. It’s my belief that 30 hours a week at school would take this positivity away. By keeping his love of learning and experimentation alive, I believe he’ll thrive no matter what the world or economy looks like in 15-years’ time.
Rowan is a five-year-old with SEN, he is a twin and currently at attending a mainstream school, he also has hearing and speech issues and is receiving medical support and we expect him to have some operations this year. Rowan was born prematurely (12 weeks early), him and his twin brother both share a strong emotional bond and enjoy their shared experience of being at a small, village C of E school. They share some friends and are a happy part of a small and supportive community. The school are fantastic, at the moment our son has not got a statement yet and gets 15 hours of support a week which is brilliant but he needs more – flexi schooling would work so well for our son because he stays at the school as his twin but gets the support he so badly needs, he cannot read or write at all and speech is not clear. He could not get any more help from the school, they are doing what they can and we want to help too. We have another meeting with the school next week and hope to start FS soon after but are keeping our fingers crossed regarding recent changes. The government do not seem to realise that if children like ours are helped by parents now it will cost less for them in the future- even if you take the emotion out of it, it is still a logical solution. There seems to be a lack of trust from the Minister Elizabeth Truss regarding the parents who wish to flex school when surely it must be only those that are willing to commit who would get involved in teaching their child- I will earn less if we do this but our son needs this. I find it hard to believe that our government would not be fully supportive of parents looking to be so involved in their children’s education, especially at a time where we can see how important active parenting is in order to keep children engaged. The question I would want to ask this Minister is what does she want to do with these children who have no statement but are in mainstream schools? If their parents are willing to take the reduction in salary and help what right does she have to tell us we cannot? It’s so frustrating because we were so excited to find a solution and now I am not sure what we will do if they decide to not see sense and make this illogical decision, all because of coding it seems, or money, but certainly it is clear that they are not thinking about what is best for a child like ours. I have already organised my work schedule to be free to be with Rowan, and will already see a 20% reduction in my salary. This is not a problem if I am using that day to help our son. The additional benefit for others in the class is that the Teaching Assistants will have time to help other children on the day that Rowan is being taught and supported by me. As he has hearing issues, a silent environment will benefit him greatly but without a statement we obviously cannot have any more provision that we already have.
This is a great example of a positive partnership between school and parents. Of all the issues that need sorting out with our education system, outlawing parents from helping with their child and taking a pay cut in the process should not be one of them. For me, this is a fundamental need that my son has, and without it he is going to fall further and further behind and need more and more resources from an already stretched system.
I am one of a growing number of parents who have chosen to flexi-school because we believe that this is the best way to educate our families. Allow me to explain our situation. When we moved to our current city last April we applied for a place for our 7-year-old at three local schools. We were sent a letter saying there were no places in these schools. When I phoned and asked where there were places, I was told they couldn’t tell me. (It was not until we appealed for a place that we, many weeks later and long after he should have been in school, eventually received a letter informing us of where there were spaces). So, we had no option but to home school. However, during the half term that we home educated our son we noticed and valued a number of aspects of this style of learning. We were able to focus on topics and subjects for longer and explore things in more detail. For example, we chose countries and studied the geography, the culture, the religion, we made the food, the flags and models of the famous buildings. We took creative approaches to developing writing, numeracy, science and general knowledge, attend specific events for home schoolers at the ThinkTank Science museum in Birmingham. We could take advantage of outdoor activities, such as forest school and specially organised visits to places like Warwick Castle and the Canalside Community Food project, organised by the Local Home Education Group. We could spend more time on music, art activities and reading together. Our son developed a real thirst for learning, instigating writing and maths activities himself, even at weekends. He became more confident, more relaxed, had more energy and we all enjoyed our time together more. We understand and appreciate the value of curriculum based education and the huge benefits of the social integration offered by schools, which is why our son now attends school 9 days in every 10. In consultation with the head, in a school not set up for flexi schooling, we agreed that this one day every other week meant that we could ensure he would not miss out on anything at school (indeed we always ensure we catch up on anything he misses), we are able to continue to explore the more focused and at the same time more fluid and creative approach allowed by home education. We believe it to be in our son’s best interest. To add to all this, the school our son attends had an Ofsted inspection in October. The report was not good reading and the school was declared to need improvement (something, once attending the school, we were very aware of). While we are seeing evidence of things being put into place to improve the school, we all know it takes time for these changes to take effect. Our children, unfortunately, do not have the time to wait for all of these changes, and flexi schooling is allowing us to ensure that our son is not missing out on his education while his school is brought into line with how the government think it should be.
Lastly, I draw your attention to the following (page 8 of the “advice”), where home education is coupled with the heading ‘Children at Risk of Missing Education’. Home schooling is a massive under taking. In this economic climate, I know several families (and am sure there are many more) that have been forced into sending their children to school, despite feeling strongly it is not best for their child. It is a massive financial commitment, both for educational resources (why is it not possible for home ed children to receive funding for their education if they are not being funded at school?), and in lack of income for the parent(s) involved in the education process. I have been nothing but stunned at the home educators I have met. Their commitment to their children, giving them the same basic skills they are able to gain at school, but in a completely different learning environment. Home schooling (in my experience) is no longer the introverted, unsociable experience it had the reputation for in the past. There are so many groups meeting up to learn together, share resources and skills, arranging hands on trips. We recently attended a home ed trip to the Leamington Spa Gurdwara, where the children (and adults!) learnt about the Sikh faith. They had a tour of the building, they asked questions, and then they ate with the Sikh people. What better way to learn? Home Education is simply an alternative learning environment. These children are by no means ‘Children at Risk of Missing Education’. Many would class them as the lucky ones.
Through flexischooling I believe children can reap the huge benefits of the education system in this country and also benefit from more hands-on way of learning about their world.
Flexi-schooling as a tool for supporting education of bilingual children. I do not remember how I found out about flexischooling but when I did I immediately thought it could be a great way of supporting my daughters’ mother tongue language without overburdening them with 6 days in formal education (5 days at the Primary School + 1 day at the Saturday Polish School). I hold an MA in Polish Philology (with teaching) from Adam Mickiewicz University and another MA in Art History from the University College London, the father of the girls is a town planner with an MA in Town Planning and Administration from AMU and MA in Town Planning from the Oxford Brooks University. We both work 4 days a week 9am – 5.15 pm (in our professions). Both my girls are born in the UK. The older one will be 5 in August and started attending school full-time this academic year.
My eldest daughter loves her school, her teacher, she enjoys learning and playing with kids in her class but after she had spent a few months at school we realised that her English takes over her Polish and being apart for most of the week (4 days of my work till 5.15) we missed each other and felt more and more disconnected. Of course, it is important she learns English as she is British and lives in an English-speaking country but we believe (and it seems the British government shares this belief with us) that she should learn about her heritage and that her bilingualism should be cultivated. Many of our friends in a similar situation send their children to the Saturday schools all over the UK. Being a qualified Polish language teacher I wanted to teach her Polish myself and avoid sending her to a Polish School but it turned out that time-wise we were very limited – the choice I had was one afternoon with a tired kid or the weekend when everyone wanted to enjoy time with a family and friends. I thought about volunteering at her school facilitating Polish/Art lessons but it would not be possible to have my younger daughter with me at school. Thus flexi-schooling – having her with me one day a week to teach her Polish reading and writing, let her learn about her heritage and at the same time support her learning through additional activities her school is not able to provide (e.g. going together to the gallery, museum, opera, concert, ice ring, swimming pool, music or theatre classes or various other workshops including these organised for and by local home educators) seemed a perfect idea. I got in touch with the school and we arranged for one day a week away from school for her to take part in an educational pilot project we set up with a group of local parents and with support of the local art gallery. My daughter’s teacher asked for documentation and admitted she would love to be able to provide her with all these opportunities we had planned but unfortunately it would not be possible at school. The project has been run for over a month now and we are more than happy flexi-schooling.
Paradoxically I know more now about what she does at school than I knew before as we have more time to talk. She is much more confident now and talks more freely about things. I have time to find out what she does there and support her school learning personalising it and following her interests (e.g. we went to see paintings with Maria and baby Jesus at the National Gallery around Christmas when she prepared the Nativity play at school, this week is the Book Week so we are planning to go to the British Library to see old manuscripts and first printed books, she recently learnt about Carnivals at school and on our off-site workshops she learnt to dance with a dance teacher and make carnival head decorations). During our days away we also learnt about hieroglyphs and Egypt, met an astronomer from the Open University and learnt about planets with him, learnt about ecology and energy production at the workshop organised by the specialists from the town council, this month we are planning workshops with food specialists, forest school and chemistry workshop, and most importantly we do all of it at the same time developing her Polish speaking, reading and writing skills. Furthermore, during that day when she is not at school she decides what she wants to do, helps me prepare workshops, meets specialists, other parents, older and younger children, learns from all of them and shares her knowledge with them. She learns that there are different sources of knowledge, modes of learning and different learning environments and most importantly she learns how to deal with them confidently. Being with her I can also support her learning explaining and talking in her mother tongue about things she learns at school and beyond. From what I know about bilingual children’s development it is the most beneficial way of supporting her development.
My daughter sees that her parents work part-time so it feels natural to her that she goes to school part-time too and other kids seem to treat it in a similar way. Last time when I asked her teacher for feedback she had nothing to be concerned about. And I personally feel more involved in her school learning than ever before. I see flexi-schooling as a way of supporting school in their endeavour to provide children with best possible education, with parents offering their time and skills voluntarily to provide their children with opportunities that otherwise would be available only to the kids in paid education.
Our daughter attended school for mornings only for her entire Reception year, as she wasn’t five until August. She was very happy and made excellent academic progress. She always had plenty of energy in the evenings for her reading homework, and could focus on this well. She started attending full-time in Year 1, and did so until February half term. We became concerned that she had become withdrawn and distant from us, and her behaviour at home deteriorated. She was becoming unkind and aggressive towards her younger brother and sister, crying a lot over little things, and we were finding it hard to communicate with her. We have now been flexi-schooling for the last two weeks, with our daughter attending mornings only again as she did in her Reception year, and we have noticed such a difference. She seems so much happier, she laughs more, smiles more, is more reasonable, much kinder and more caring to her younger siblings, and it is as if a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders. Our daughter is of a very sensitive nature and worries a lot about things that don’t seem to bother most children. She finds it hard to be apart from her family for the long hours of school, and becomes very anxious about going to school. We believe her disruptive behaviour at home and her seeming distant from us was the expression of her unhappiness and worries about school. I am a qualified primary school teacher and from my own teaching experience I can see other benefits to flexi-schooling. I feel that full-time school does not allow enough time for child-led learning, nor creative activities, which I believe are very important to a child’s development. Flexi-schooling also allows our daughter to spend time on her hobbies and pursuing her own interests. It also means I can take her on outings to museums, castles, country parks and other educational places that provide her with real world experiences, and make her learning more meaningful. We have considered full-time home-education; however, we can also see it is beneficial for her to learn to be apart from us and to stand on her own two feet, not to mention the social aspect of spending time with the friends she has at school. By attending school, she also benefits from structured lessons, learning to listen and relate to other adults, being part of her local community, and learning to get on with other children. Flexi-schooling seems to be the perfect educational solution for our daughter as she can benefit from the experiences school provides, without the stress that going full-time seems to put on her. It is very important to us that our daughter is happy and that she receives the best education that we can provide her with, and we believe that flexi-schooling is perfect balance for her needs at this point in time. If we were pushed to choose between full-time school of full-time home education we would probably choose the home education route, but it would be a real shame if she can’t benefit from the benefits of both.
As a trained primary school teacher of 20+ years’ experience, it came as a huge shock that my daughter did not respond well to school. I had never heard of flexi-schooling so for our family it was a voyage into the unknown. Three weeks in to the Autumn Term it was clear that, despite an excellent reception teacher and positive and caring school ethos, my daughter was not happy. She had started to ‘create’ before going to school. First of all, it was in more subtle ways but by October half term her behaviour before and after school until bedtime became almost unmanageable. We knew she was exhausted as she’d willingly gone to bed earlier and earlier each day until she was asleep around 5pm each day. What was as worrying was that she’d lost the ‘joi de vivre’ that she’d been born with and could not be less interested in almost everything. We’d attended a parent’s evening and been told that she was most able and well behaved and that they expected her to do really well. So, we decided to wait and see what happened during the October half term when she was at home all the time. Three days into the week off she had almost returned to her normal self and by the end of the week she was as she had always been bouncy individual with great zest and enthusiasm for life. We literally held our breath on the morning of the return to school and were disappointed but not surprised that the previous pattern of behaviour set in again within days and by the end of the week I had to pries her out of the door in a foul temper. Family dynamics reached an all-time low and we were all extremely stressed and desperately needed to find a solution.We wrote to our head asking if he would be happy to consider having us withdraw her for part of the week and home educate her. I had done copious amounts of research into home education and visited HE groups to talk to people about what life home-educating is like. I was bowled over by the sheer expertise that there was in the HE community and also incredibly heartened that support networks were in abundance and we were most definitely not alone. There followed several meetings with the head teacher, current teachers and eventually her Y1/2 class teacher throughout that term. It was finally decided that yes this was acceptable and that we could commence in the following January 2012. She currently attends school Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays, with one Friday each month off to attend a fantastic HE group. The school has been incredibly supportive and can see the positive effects this has had on her and the whole family. We have not looked back. Our family life has totally restored its previous happy and settled way. Our daughter is happy to go to school and happy to be at home or out and about with me on her HE days. At parent’s evenings, we have been told she’s doing well. On the days when she is educated-offsite, my daughter has swimming lessons benefiting from a small number of children in a class, gymnastics after school club when she is fresh as she has not been in school all day, she has pottery lessons one to one with a neighbour in our village who has her own studio, she meets both sets of grandparents for days out, she goes to soft play areas, outdoor play areas, she has been on trips to museums, farms, a Hindu temple, snuggled up in the duvet and read books with me and to her brother for great, happy chunks of time, played properly with her toys, made craft items, written stories, practiced handwriting, danced, played games, romped about in the mud, helped in the garden, used the computer in a multitude of ways, come shopping with us and taken part in every part of our daily lives. She’s also really enjoying learning to play the piano and recorder. I have not coerced her in any way to do any of the above it has all come from her general interest in anything and everything. So in effect, despite my training, I do not find I have to sit her down and teach as she is self-directing. If she asks, I answer to the best of my abilities. If I don’t know the answer we find out together. We have evolved into an autonomously educating family and we all LOVE it!
I have an extremely bright 12 year old with a very high IQ and exceptional mathematical ability. She got an A star at GCSE maths at age 11. She is currently studying A level maths at home as well as physics and chemistry GCSE. I have been negotiating with some local schools for her to study part time at school so that she can gain socially and take some humanities, arts and foreign language in a school environment.None of our local schools will give her advanced tuition for maths and science, so full-time school is not really an option.Flexischooling seems like an ideal option for a very bright child like mine.
My son has been flexischooled since March 2012. The class he was in had mixed ages – years 3, 4, 5 and 6. The school originally had 2 year groups together but, due to cuts, this had been deemed unworkable, and a class was lost. My son is an intelligent boy but like many, he has a limited attention span and if not kept interested and inspired, he tends to just turn off. The fact that there were children so much younger in the class caused a lot of problems – we felt that the older children were being ‘dumbed down’ to cater for the younger children. They were missing out on opportunities that should be accessible to older children, because it was not appropriate for the younger end. This led to my son feeling unchallenged, uninspired and basically very unenthusiastic about school generally. Our first thought was to move him, but in other ways it is a fabulous place to be – beautiful surroundings, lovely staff – plus there was not a viable option within a 10-mile radius.Flexischooling has breathed new life into my son. He attends school Monday to Wednesday and is home educated on Thursday and Friday. We have a great relationship with the school, which is fully supportive, and my son has absolutely flown over the past year in his levels, in his enthusiasm and in his happiness.When we began flexischooling he was achieving good results at school, slightly above average, but the teacher was aware that he was particularly good at maths, but was perhaps not achieving all he was capable of, they felt he was easily distracted and that he didn’t seem to be interested in what he was doing. He was unhappy in, and out, of school.We spent many hours discussing what was best for him, and felt we had come up with the perfect solution. The school was happy to support our son and we were happy to keep the school in the loop of what work we were doing.I have just attended a parent’s evening and he is already at the levels expected from a child 2 years older – a substantial part of this is down to the work we do at home. We are able to work at his pace, which is too fast for the group he has been with – I am able to stop at the points he needs, or wants, more explanations, and give him that time that was not available to him. Everyone around my son can see the positive impact that flexischooling has had. His reading age went from a year above his actual age to that of someone several years older than him – what inspired him was the fact that we could spend time finding out what he wanted to read – he wasn’t limited to what was appropriate for the 7-11’s in his class. The favourite discovery that my son has made is that he is really excellent at drawing – he had no idea as it had not been investigated, but we have allocated a set time each week to art and there has been no stopping him! Such a revelation! Looking at a portrait he did a year ago, and one he did last month – the difference is astounding! My son is now a happy and content boy. This is partly because he gets to go through work at home and is then able to carry this same work on at school. If he has a particular area that he wants to go over again, or look at in more detail, he has the chance to do just that with us at home. His mind can move along at the speed that suits, and this has made learning exciting for him! I believe that flexischooling is a viable option for some pupils and parents, those who do want to be within the school system, but who are not getting all they need from that system. If we as parents are willing and able to commit to this important option, then I strongly feel it should be available to us.
I hadn’t heard of flexi schooling until last autumn when I stumbled upon an article in the Independent newspaper online. It was a revelation! I have two children with special needs; my eldest has mild autistic spectrum disorder and my youngest attention deficit and hyperactivity as well as social communication issues and language processing problems. To cut a long story short, I feel like I have been on the educational psychologist/occupational therapist/clinical psychologist/consultant paediatrician/child psychiatrist/physiotherapist/speech and language therapist/special needs advisor (and so on!) treadmill for AGES! My eldest has coped: we have found our path over the years and he is doing well in full-time school, my youngest (aged very nearly nine), not so. He is an excellent school with a great teacher and head teacher and supportive special needs in place. It is not enough. We as parents have tried everything to help him learn, to help him concentrate and attend – from traditional medication to diet intervention to advice from all those specialists listed above(!) – as well as reading probably every published parenting/education book ever written (it feels that way anyway!) – and this is on top of the expertise from my background (I have a degree in education and years of experience of teaching and facilitating learning in children from birth to secondary age) . Nothing had worked for him.Flexi schooling has. And the results were instant. I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to try and the night I read the article I stayed up until the small hours researching. It was the following day I approached the head teacher with my request, for my son to alternate full school days with half school days and have three afternoons a week with me. The head obviously saw that this was a fantastic opportunity for my son to make progress and pushed through discussion with the LEA quickly. We began flexi schooling on a trial basis about a week or so later (we were to review in a month). We have been going ever since, everybody involved (not least my son!) entirely delighted with the arrangement. My son is academically very behind and our aim is to develop further his basic in maths and English. We use a well-known tutoring system and at the same time work on these areas (alongside his special needs targets, concentration and listening skills and occupational therapy programme) in a very child centred way. I judge by his mood, his energy level, his interest that day and we take it from there – bringing his focus round to an activity that he can learn from. Last Friday for example, trapdoors were his fascination (he often has autistic-like obsessions) – what did we do in our flexi schooled afternoon? We drew trap doors of various shapes all over the living room floor, we identified and named the polygons, we measured their sides and learnt how to read from the scale on the tape measure and then we used addition to work out the distance we would have to saw to open our trapdoors – he learnt about a perimeter! Would he have learnt as well and as thoroughly in a classroom with individual teacher-led lessons on these aspects of mathematics? No. His interest was there – we snatched the opportunity. Would I like to home educate full-time? No. I could not. I run a business and need to earn to raise my family. And the benefits my son gets from school, the sense of community, the range and diversity of educational experiences the school provides, the wonderful relationships he has with a range of adults and his peer group, I know I would personally struggle to provide if I was entirely responsible for all this.Would he cope with going back to school full-time? No. He wouldn’t. He is calmer, he is progressing, his basic skills are developing at an amazing rate (He can tell the time now! When we started, I thought that was just utterly beyond him!) and this incredibly child-centred individual education from the person that knows him best, his mother, is just the perfect supplement to the education he receives in school.
We came to flexischooling by accident. We had started home-educating whilst living in Yorkshire, as we strongly believed that our son was not emotionally ready for the social experience of school when he reached Reception age. We very much enjoyed this journey together, and benefitted from a rich and vibrant local home-education network. However, when we moved to a new region we initially found it hard to locate local home-educators. We pragmatically decided to ask the local school for flexi arrangements so our son could meet children his own age locally, and get to know the local community. The school had never heard of flexi-schooling, but were very open-minded, with a refreshing attitude that it was our responsibility as parents to decide the most appropriate educational route for our child. We have now been flexi-schooling for 2 years, during which time my son’s education has flourished and he has enjoyed being an active part of two communities – his school-based community and his home-educational one, which we eventually located. Rather than being an outsider, he has learnt how to move between & embrace both of these groups, taking different experiences from both and bringing his diverse educational experiences to enrich each group. Our experiment with flexi-schooling has been so successful, and has impressed the school so much, that last year the school approached me to be a school governor. So, I know find myself in the slightly strange position of being a partially home-educating governor of a mid-sized rural primary school, with growing pupil numbers. With suspicions now being raised that my son might be dyslexic, we are about to embark on a new phase in our flexi-schooling journey. He has started to find his school education days difficult and emotionally challenging, and we hope that screening him for this condition might help us all to improve his educational experiences. We find him to be a very bright and emotionally literate child, who is comfortable in a wide variety of social situations with people of a wide variety of ages. He is stimulated by learning and takes responsibility for developing his own interests – which are not dissimilar to those of other 6-year-old boys – space, dinosaurs, geography & the environment, reading, cycling, climbing and tennis. Flexi-schooling has really been ‘the best of both worlds’ for my son, a view firmly endorsed by his initially sceptical paediatrician grandmother.
Thank you for all that you have done for our child and consequently for our family – We have taken so many positives from it. We think your school is a very special place to learn and play. I gather from the general hit and miss success of people being accepted in schools to do this (sic flexischooling), that we are lucky. My daughter is 5 and after 2 weeks decided she’d had enough full-time school with huge effect on the family peace. We approached our local primary (about flexischooling) and the head and staff have after several meetings come to accept this as something they are willing and able to support. Phew! I felt that I wasn’t ready or able to offer my daughter full-time HE so after researching huge amounts found out about this happy compromise. We have not looked back. Although this might eventually lead into more home-education and less school, we are very content with the status quo for now. It has worked very well and so far none of the family have had any problems with negative responses. Let’s hope this carries on. Good luck to everyone else pursuing this way of life. PS. My son is 2 and we’ve decided to do this when he goes to school too!!
Our family feels very lucky to have found such brave little school that nurtures the children so well. We originally intended to home educate but then decided to ‘flexi-school’… XXX goes to a village school about 16 miles away, the school and the head teacher are very, very supportive and fantastic.! Nearly half the school is flexi-schooled.
If we lived nearer to your school, we would attend every day.
I have been flexischooling my 9-year-old since Easter this year – we do 3 days at school and 2 at home (or not at home usually!) Working very well for us!
Although I will continue to home-educate, your approach to supporting my child’s needs is beginning to
restore my confidence in mainstream education.
I have been home-educating my 3 children for the last few years. 6,5 and 3. Yesterday was the older two’s first morning at school. We have found an amazing village school that offers flexischooling as standard. They are rare in that they aim to offer a bespoke service as it were to each family. They currently have 5 families doing it. We are going to try a day and a half a week. Despite the tears and protests they loved it. The teacher and I are just trying to work out how best to communicate and work together, since I don’t want to feel like I have to do everything in her plan otherwise they may as well be there every day. So, early days!