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Flexi-schooling policy


Last Updated

Description of this scheme

This is a policy and practice guide issued by Devon County Council which describes how requests for flexi-schooling arrangements should be managed by schools.

General information and contacts

Date: 11 June 2021

Review date: Annual

Approval: by Lead Member of Devon County Council

Author: Senior Policy Officer


Sponsors: Dr Phil Norrey, Chief Executive
Melissa Caslake, Chief Officer for Children’s Services

Key partners: Babcock Learning and Development Partnership, Devon School Leadership Services, Devon Association of Governors, Church of England Dioceses of Exeter and Salisbury, Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth

Other contacts:
Dawn Stabb, Head of Education and Learning 01392 383000,
Simon Niles, Children’s Services Strategic Manager 01392 383000, Peter Walker, Professional Lead for School Attendance 01392 287360,
Education Transport Team 0345 155 1019, Clerk to the Independent Devon Schools Appeals Panel, 01392 382486

Other links: Department for Education 0870 000 2288,
Office of the Schools Adjudicator
Children’s Education Advisory Service – Ministry of Defence 01980 618244
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
0370 000 2288, Elective home education: Departmental guidance for parents, April 2019, Elective home education: Departmental guidance for local authorities, April 2019

1. Equality and safeguarding statements

1.1 Devon County Council will only commit to policies and practices which will eradicate discrimination and promote equality for all, regardless of age, gender, disability, religion and belief, race and ethnicity and sexual orientation. This Scheme will be subject to an Impact Assessment which will be integral to all reviews.

1.2 Devon County Council and its partners recognise that safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility. Whether their interest is in all young people ‘staying safe’ in all aspects of our services, or whether they are working in specific areas of vulnerability, all staff will have appropriate training and induction so that they understand their roles and responsibilities and are confident in carrying them out. Settings, schools, children, young people and their parents or carers, or any member of the community should feel secure that they could raise any issues or concerns about the safety or welfare of children and know that they will be listened to and taken seriously. This will be achieved by maintaining an ethos of commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. This is supported by a clear child protection policy, appropriate induction and training, briefings on and discussion of relevant factors and refreshed learning in line with current legislation and guidelines.

1.3 Devon County Council acts as a Corporate Parent for Children in Care. This means that the LA has a legal and moral duty to provide the kind of support that any good parents would provide their own children. This scheme has been written to comply with this principle.

2. Background

2.1 Children of statutory school age have the right to full-time education in a state-funded school. Parents can choose to make other arrangements if they wish, either at an independent, fee-paying school or by being home educated.[1]

Children who are home educated are not normally registered on the roll of a school, but parents can request that a school permits them to receive part of their education at a school. This is called flexi-schooling.

2.2 The purpose of flexi-schooling is often to access education in specific subjects more easily than through home education. It may also be seen as a means to support a child who is not able to manage full-time education in a school setting or to enable a child to socialise with its peers. This is distinct from part-time education where a child cannot manage full time education whether in or out of a school.

Flexi-schooling is therefore not the same as a child having a part-time timetable in school (recorded on an Annex R).

2.3 There is no obligation on schools to agree to a request for flexi-schooling. [2]

2.4 Flexi-schooling arrangements may be long-term where all parties agree that this is in a child’s best interest. It may be a short-term option for a particular reason and with the aim of supporting a child back towards full-time attendance in school. This may be the case for a child returning to education following illness.

2.5 Schools entering a flexi school arrangement are required to put the child on roll.  Sessions when the pupil is not expected in must be recorded as C – Other authorised absence.  Sessions when the pupil is due in will be marked as per any other pupil (i.e. present, authorised absence or unauthorised absence).

2.6 A school will review the flexi-schooling agreement should a child’s attendance for sessions when he or she is expected to be in school give cause for concern.

The school may end the flexi-school arrangement at any time if the terms of the agreement are not being met and/or the arrangement is not considered to be working to the child’s best interests. The child would then be expected to attend on a full-time basis as would any pupil on the school’s roll.

A parent may also end the arrangement at any time, either returning the child to full-time attendance or by writing to inform the school that the child will be Electively Home Educated (on a full-time basis) and taken off the school roll.

Where a flexi-schooling arrangement ends under these circumstances, parent and school should work together to ensure that any LA Transport can be put in place (see section 10.2).

[1] Or, for children aged 14 or over, at a Further Education College or other 16-19 provider.

[1] Elective Home Education: Departmental Guidance for Parents April 2019 section 1.3 and 6.3

3. What is the purpose of this guidance?

3.1 Devon County Council has an aim that all children and young people in the county receive outstanding education which enables them to achieve their individual potential. That education should be provided in a safe and secure environment.

Where a parent chooses to educate their child partly at home and partly in a school and the school agrees to a flexi-schooling arrangement, LAs have an obligation to ensure that the child is safe and suitably educated at home. Where it is not clear that this is happening, the LA will act to rectify the situation. This applies equally for flexi-schooling as it does for children who are entirely home educated.[3]

3.2 This Guidance is intended to help parents and schools to understand what flexi-schooling is for and how it can be managed in the best interests of the child. It is itself informed by Guidance which is issued by the Department for Education.

The LA has powers and duties with regard to home education; they also apply for flexi-schooling.

The end result is that every child educated wholly or partly at home receives a suitable education in a safe setting.

3.3 This Guidance will set out the roles and responsibilities of parents, schools and the LA. This will include details of when the child is expected to be present in school.

[3] Elective Home Education: Departmental Advice for Local Authorities April 2019 section 1.3

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Parents
The phrases “statutory school age” and “compulsory schooling” are widely used. Education is compulsory but attending a school is not.[4]

Parents must ensure that a child of statutory school age receives efficient, suitable full-time education unless it would not be in his or her best interest to do so because of a medical condition or other reasons. Education may be in a state-funded school, in an independent, fee-paying school or otherwise than at school. This last form includes Elective Home Education.

Parents must still ensure that the child receives a suitable full-time education, but the element received at school will be taken into account in considering whether that duty is met.

Parents take on financial responsibility for the cost of the home education element of flexi-schooling, including the cost of any external assistance used such as tutors, parent groups or part-time alternative provision.

Parents take on the responsibility for external examination costs if a child does not attend school full-time. The LA or schools or colleges attended part-time may meet the costs on a discretionary basis.

Parents take on the responsibility for ensuring that any person involved in the child’s education at home or otherwise than in a state-funded school is safe to work with children, including the costs of any checks by the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).

Parents do not contribute to the costs of education provided at a state-funded school or FE College.

4.2 Local Authority

The LA recognises the view from the Department for Education that all state-funded school places are offered as full-time places. Devon does not recommend flexi-schooling as an option for education except as a means to help a child to move back towards full-time education but recognises the decision rests with schools in what they see as the best interests of the child.

Where it appears that a child is not receiving suitable education at home, the LA has a duty to rectify the situation. For further information on this, please see Devon’s Guidance on Elective Home Education. This applies as much to children who are flexi-schooled as it does to others who are entirely home-educated.

Working with schools, LAs should assist parents to make an informed decision about flexi-schooling or home education. Devon encourages parents to discuss this with schools as part of any request to agree to flexi-schooling. Advice will also be available from the LA – with Education Welfare Officers and Admissions Officers able to give advice to parents and schools. The intention will be to enable parents to make an informed decision.

The LA should ensure that head teachers are familiar with (this) guidance and the Departmental Guidance as it is revised from time to time.

The LA should be informed of all flexi-schooling arrangements as it should with all arrangements for full-time Elective Home Education. This will assist the LA to consider trends across its area and identify dissatisfaction among parents with local school provision.

It is not the LA’s role to decide on requests by parents for flexi-schooling. This role is for the school.

4.3 Schools

Head teachers in schools must consider all requests for flexi-schooling arrangements on a case by case basis. Decisions to approve or refuse requests must be made in the best interest of the child in that school’s context. A school cannot control the delivery of education outside the school and should satisfy itself that the home and school elements combine to provide a suitable education in a safe environment.

The governing board of a school will have scrutiny over decisions, but it is expected that the head teacher will be the decision-maker.

Where a request is to be turned down by the school, clear reasons should be given in writing. This will enable a parent to consider whether the reasons given are fair and transparent. Parents will have the right to take up the school’s own complaints policy if they wish.

Where a request is to be agreed, a written agreement should be drawn up and signed by the head teacher and parent. Where appropriate, the child’s agreement should also be included. Flexi-schooling agreements should clearly set out expectations about attendance in school with a timetable for periods in school and out of school. This will consider how the school delivers its curriculum across the school week (s) so that the head teacher is satisfied that, for instance, there is suitable English and maths education for the child. The agreement should include regular review points and clear guidance about the circumstances when the agreement could be revoked by the school. A flexi-schooling agreement can be ended at any time by the parent with the child resuming full-time attendance immediately.

Schools must record the child’s attendance as it does for all children on their roll. Flexi-schooling sessions will be recorded as authorised absences. They must not be recorded as the child being educated off-site as the school is not responsible for either education or safeguarding for those times.

Schools are requested to notify the LA of all flexi-school agreements as they begin and end. An online form is available at the School Information website. This will ensure that support services such as Devon Inclusion and Education Welfare can play their part where necessary.[5]

Schools should also notify Children’s Services and the Virtual School as appropriate where a child has an allocated social care officer.

[4] A child begins to be of compulsory school age-

(a) when he attains the age of five, if he attains that age on a prescribed day, and

(b) otherwise at the beginning of the prescribed day next following his attaining that age.”  [Section 8 Education Act 1996, as amended by Education Act 1997]

A young person ceases to be of compulsory school as the last Friday in June in the school year in which the pupil obtains the age of 16 years. [Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 1970]

[5] A flexi-schooling arrangement does not automatically mean that a child will be known to or be working with the LA’s support services. However, where this is the case, flexi-schooling may be relevant to the child’s safeguarding, progress and attainment and therefore should be known to the support service.

5. School Admissions

5.1 Flexi-schooling is not a School Admissions issue.

There must be a formal application for any child who requires a place at a state-funded school. This will be completed by a parent or carer or (for young people who aged over 16 at the point of admission) the young person.

There is no distinction between children who attend full-time, part-time or with a flexi-schooling arrangement. All offers of admission are for full-time attendance even where the child is eligible for part-time attendance or deferred admission. There is no lesser or greater admissions priority where there is also a request for flexi-schooling.

5.2 Admission authorities for schools must not take a request for flexi-schooling into account in a decision whether or not a place can be offered.

5.3 If a full-time place is offered at the school, there is no right of appeal to an admissions appeal panel independent of the school or admission authority where a request for flexi-schooling is turned down. It is for the parent (or young person) to follow the school’s complaints procedure.

For pupils who are already on roll at a school and for whom a request to begin a flexi-schooling arrangement is turned down, the recourse is to follow the school’s complaints procedure.

6. Registration

6.1 All pupils at a school must be registered on its admissions register. There is no distinction between children who attend full-time, part0time or with a flexi-schooling arrangement.

7. Attendance

7.1 If a parent wishes all of the education to be delivered at home, he or she must inform the school in writing that they will home educate the child in order for the school to take the child off roll.  This will either to be registered at another school, or, where the parent gives a written notice, as electively Home Educated or otherwise as Educated Other than at School.

7.2 Pupils are expected to attend school sessions according to the agreement. For other sessions, there is no requirement for home education to cover set hours. It must, however, amount to education that is suitable for the child.

Parents may be liable to lawful sanctions for non-attendance if the pupil fails to attend the expected school sessions.

7.3 Schools may make arrangements for part or all of the education it provides to be outside its premises. This may include alternative provision intervention. For sessions covered by these activities, the child will be recorded as present at an approved educational activity. As the school retains responsibility for this part of the child’s education, it is distinct from the home education element of flexi-schooling.

8. Children with an EHCP

8.1 The 0-25 SEN Team will advise with regard to children with an Education Health and Care Plan. A request for flexi-schooling may prompt a formal review of the child’s provision. No flexi-schooling agreement should be made without liaison with the 0-25 SEN Team.

9. Infant Class Size Legislation

9.1 All pupils present in a Key Stage 1 class counts towards the class size limit of 30 with each teacher. Being a flexi-schooled child is not a Permitted Exception to this requirement.

10. Unsuitable Education at Home

10.1 While the school nor the LA have a duty to monitor the suitability of education provided at home, if it appears to the school that it is unsuitable, it should ask the parent to take immediate remedial action. It should also notify the LA’s Elective Home Education Team of its concerns.

If the parent declines to take remedial action or the school is still concerned about the provision of education at home, the school should withdraw its agreement to flexi-schooling with immediate effect.

If it appears to the LA that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, it may lead to the issuing of a School Attendance Order on the parents.

11. Education Transport

11.1 Where there is an entitlement to education transport provided by the LA, that is for travel at the beginning and end of the school day. There is no additional entitlement to travel during the day, either to or from school to accommodate different patterns of attendance.

11.2 The LA may withdraw transport for those journeys that are not required due to a flexi-schooling arrangement. This does not affect entitlement, but it is advisable to give notice wherever possible if journeys are to resume earlier than planned.