Flexischooling Challenge: Contact your local MP

With thanks to Martin Winfield and Alison Sauer for the following.



1. Please feel free to copy and use this letter, post it elsewhere or modify it.

2. You can get the name of your MP and their postal address by entering your post code on this parliament site: http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/ . Alternatively, you can send your MP an electronic message by visiting http://www.writetothem.com/ , entering your post code and clicking on your MP’s name. Don’t forget to include your address for a reply.

3. Please do write to your MP though, and encourage supporters to write to their MPs as well. When writing to your MP at their Parliament address you do not need to stamp the envelope (well, every little helps :-))

4.Your MP probably doesn’t have the power to take any action to resolve the problem, but there’s one thing s/he can do: forward your letter to the DfE and request a reply. MPs do that routinely, whatever party they belong to; it’s the easiest job for an MP to do for his constituents. If enough such letters reach the DfE ministers will see the strength of opposition.

5 Quantity needed: If your own MP gets a lot of letters on the subject, s/he’ll take a bit more interest than just forwarding them to the DfE. So numbers are important. And if you can adapt or personalise the letter in any way, fantastic!

6. If you think it will be helpful please enclose the briefing doc where possible.

Download the briefing doc in pdf format (right click and save) – size 240K, about 15-30 seconds
Download a copy of the below letter in Word doc format (right click and save) – size 7K, about 1-2 seconds 


(Your Postal Address)

Dear Mrs _______,

As one of your constituents I write to ask for your help.

The Department for Education revised their guidance to schools on attendance related matters on Feb 22nd, 2013. Their goal, quite correctly, was to reduce absenteeism and truancy. However, the DfE’s choice of wording in the new guidance has had a very serious and unintended consequence: it has put thousands of children at risk of losing access to education at school.

Across the country there are thousands of children in “flexischooling” arrangements which are extended to pupils on the discretion of the head teacher. This is where the child is in full time education, but some of the education happens off site at different premises or in the home. The reasons why a child may be flexischooled are many. Some have special needs and aren’t able to cope with a full day at school. Others are top talents in sports/the arts and need leave from school to attend events / develop their talents (while still continuing a full-time education). In some cases, there is no available school nearby or no place at the only available school and the child is put on a flexischooling arrangement as a temporary measure. There are also off-site training programmes etc., that require a flexischooling arrangement if they are to work.

The new guidance completely banned flexischooling and it appears the DfE hadn’t fully thought through the implication. The Chair of the Education Select Committee pointed out to the DfE that a sudden ban in the middle of the academic year would turf thousands of children out of school. The DfE hurriedly issued a “clarification” in March with a slight rewording of the text to indicate that children currently being flexischooled will not be immediately affected.

However, the clarification doesn’t go far enough. The net result of the new guidelines is that from the new academic year school heads have to mark all non-attendance, whether authorised or not, as unauthorised absences – it is no longer left to their discretion to allow flexischooling (using a b code to indicate the child is being educated off site rather than not being educated at all). Considering that all flexischooled pupils need to be marked as absent while they are being educated off-site, the school’s attendance statistics will be adversely impacted. As these statistics form a critical component of the OFSTED report it is expected that schools will no longer be willing to allow ANY flexischooling arrangement for fear of OFSTED reprisals. In addition parents may be at risk of prosecution for not ensuring their child has a full time education. This affects thousands of pupils, many of them vulnerable and not all of whom have the family support to home educate them. In fact, some rural schools will become not viable and will have to close.

Whether the department has substantial evidence of heads misusing the “authorised absence” facility to grant excessive authorised absences or not is unknown. However, removing this discretion from heads is going to severely disadvantage some of our most deserving pupils.

The DfE has, in effect, banned flexischooling by the back door. This has been done without any consultation with schools, especially those schools which have a large number of flexischooling pupils and which will face significant funding gaps should they lose those pupils. There has been no consultation with families of flexischooled pupils or the pupils themselves. In fact, I believe there has been no consultation with any stakeholders.

Would you support the view that choice in education is important and that flexischooling, which has been around for at least half a century, should be allowed to continue?

Would you please use your good offices to request the DfE to reconsider this harsh decision?

Would you please request the DfE to immediately suspend the new guidelines pending a proper consultation exercise?

Yours sincerely,

About the author

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress | Two Thirds Design