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Flexischooling policy change

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Dear Department for Education, I should like to request the following information in relation to a recent decision by your department.

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DEFINITIONS

On the questions that follow, and for the purpose of this request

- the term DOCUMENTATION refers to ALL communications both internal and external and includes but is not limited to text messages, e-mails, faxes, letters and transcripts of telephone calls that are held by yourself or originated by you up to and including the end of business on 15th of March 2013.

the term FS refers to flexischooling whether spelt flexi-schooling, flexischooling or referred to by any other term.

the term THE DECISION is the decision taken by your department in February 2013 to reinterpret the legal position regarding FS and to the subsequent revision of relevant sections of the 2007 "Keeping Pupil Registers Guidance..."
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I should prefer to receive your reply in electronic format at this email address.

It would be helpful if you were to provide any brief notes which might be necessary to understand the context of the information provided, although I recognise that you are not obliged to do this. If for any reason you feel this request is unclear, please contact me by email. For any of the questions or part of any question, if you are not the appropriate authority for the request please let me know as soon as is convenient.

If the information requested contains sections of confidential information, please blank out or remove these sections, and mark clearly that they have been removed.

QUESTIONS

1. On what was the decision to change policy in respect of FS based? Was civil service input sought? Please provide DOCUMENTATION relating to civil service advice on reinterpreting existing legislation in this regard.

2. Please further provide DOCUMENTATION on all other advice and data on this matter that assisted you in formulating THE DECISION.

3. What's is your department's assessment of the number of schools that would be affected and/or forced to close as a result of THE DECISION? Please provide DOCUMENTATION relating to these assessments.

4A. Did your department assess the impact on pupils, the number of pupils who would be affected and what effect it would have on them? Please provide DOCUMENTATION relating to these assessments.
4B Did your department consider, specifically, the needs minority and/or vulnerable FS pupils, and the effect on them of THE DECISION? Please send copies of DOCUMENTATION demonstrating that needs of these pupils were given due consideration in THE DECISION.

Yours faithfully,

Clare Rush

Department for Education

Dear Ms Rush

Thank you for your recent enquiry. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2013/0021973

Thank you

Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288

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Department for Education

Dear Ms Rush,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 21
March. You requested “information in relation to a recent decision by your
department.
DEFINITIONS
    
On the questions that follow, and for the purpose of this request

 

The term DOCUMENTATION refers to ALL communications both internal and
external and includes but is not limited to text messages, e-mails, faxes,
letters and transcripts of telephone calls that are held by yourself or
originated by you up to and including the end of business on 15th of March
2013.

 

The term FS refers to flexischooling whether spelt flexi-schooling,
flexischooling or referred to by any other term.

 

The term THE DECISION is the decision taken by your department in February
2013 to reinterpret the legal position regarding FS and to the subsequent
revision of relevant sections of the 2007 "Keeping Pupil Registers
Guidance..."

 

I should prefer to receive your reply in electronic format at this email
address.
    
It would be helpful if you were to provide any brief notes which might be
necessary to understand the context of the information provided, although
I recognise that you are not obliged to do this. If for any reason you
feel this request is unclear, please contact me by email. For any of the
questions or part of any question, if you are not the appropriate
authority for the request please let me know as soon as is convenient.

 

If the information requested contains sections of confidential
information, please blank out or remove these sections, and mark clearly
that they have been removed.
    
QUESTIONS
    
     1. On what was the decision to change policy in respect of FS
     based? Was civil service input sought? Please provide DOCUMENTATION
     relating to civil service advice on reinterpreting existing
     legislation in this regard.
    
     2. Please further provide DOCUMENTATION on all other advice and
     data on this matter that assisted you in formulating THE DECISION.
    
     3. What is your department's assessment of the number of schools
     that would be affected and/or forced to close as a result of THE
     DECISION? Please provide DOCUMENTATION relating to these
     assessments.
    
     4A. Did your department assess the impact on pupils, the number of
     pupils who would be affected and what effect it would have on them?
     Please provide DOCUMENTATION relating to these assessments.

     4B Did your department consider, specifically, the needs minority
     and/or vulnerable FS pupils, and the effect on them of THE
     DECISION? Please send copies of DOCUMENTATION demonstrating that
     needs of these pupils were given due consideration in THE DECISION.”

 

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(“the Act”).

 

In relation to your request for information to questions 1 and 2 the
Department holds the information you have requested.  However, the
Department estimates that the cost of complying with your request would
exceed the cost threshold applicable to central Government. This is £600
and represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3½ working days
locating, retrieving and extracting the information 

 

Under section 12 of the Act the Department is therefore not obliged to
comply with your request in relation to these questions and will not be
processing it further.

However, if you were to make a new request for a narrower category of
information or limit the scope of your request by specifying a time period
the Department may be able to comply with your request within the cost
limit, although I cannot guarantee that this will be the case.

In relation to questions 3, 4A and 4B I have established that the
information you requested is not held by the Department.

As you are aware, flexi-schooling is a term used for an arrangement
whereby children are partly educated at school and partly educated at
home.  Unlike full-time home education any agreement between a pupil’s
parents and a school for the child to be flexi-schooled is at the head
teacher’s discretion.   The Department does not collect information
specifically relating to pupils under a flexi-schooling arrangement.

 

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 require the
proprietor of every school to keep an admission register and attendance
register; the admission register contains the personal details of every
pupil (including pupils under a flexi-schooling arrangement) that the
school educates while the attendance register is used to record pupils’
attendance.

 

The number of pupils entered on the admission register is the basis of
funding that is allocated to schools.  Therefore, pupils under a
flexi-schooling agreement are currently in receipt of a full-time place at
school and the school can receive a full-unit of funding for such pupils.

The assessment the Department made was about whether the school attendance
framework and funding framework supports a flexi-schooling arrangement. 

The school attendance framework does not envisage this kind of
arrangement.  Parents with a child of compulsory school age have a legal
duty to make sure that their child receives a full-time education suitable
to their age, ability and aptitude, and any special educational needs that
the child may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise
(such as full-time home education).  If a parent registers their child of
compulsory school age at a school but fails to ensure their regular
attendance, the parent is guilty of a criminal offence under section 444
of the Education Act 1996.  The legislation provides for various defences
to such a prosecution for example unavoidable cause, specific travel
issues etc. but no specific statutory defences are made to provide for
flexi-schooling. The courts have interpreted regular attendance to mean
that a child should generally attend school each day.

The way that schools are funded does not support this arrangement.  Most
of the funding that schools are given through their local authority’s
funding formula is based on the number of pupils on the school roll.  A
flexi-schooling arrangement means some schools can receive a full unit of
funding for a pupil for whom they do not provide full-time education, and
in some cases may provide very little education.  The school finance legal
framework does not provide specifically for part-time registration or
part-time funding for pupils of compulsory school age.

 

The following information may also be useful to you.

 

As you are aware, on 22 February the Government published revised advice
on school attendance. As part of this advice we categorically said that
schools could not agree to a flexi-schooling arrangement, you will be
interested to know that the flexi-schooling reference in this advice has
been removed.

In March the Government clarified its expectation on how schools should
record a pupil’s school attendance under a flexi-schooling arrangement.

We advised that schools should not record a pupil as attending an off-site
educational activity unless the school is actively responsible for
approving and supervising the off-site education, and has established
arrangements to ensure the safety and the welfare of the pupil while being
educated off-site.

Where parents have entered in to flexi-schooling arrangements, schools may
continue to offer those arrangements.  Pupils should be marked absent from
school during sessions when they are receiving home education.

 

Schools are ultimately responsible for the attainment of every pupil on
their admission register.  Whilst being home educated, parents and carers
are responsible for pupils, not schools.

 

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number 2013/0021973 in any future
communications.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request. 

 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office
Yours sincerely,

Karen Kennedy
Behaviour and Attendance in Schools Division
[email address]
[1]www.education.gov.uk

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References

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1. http://www.education.gov.uk/

Fiona Nicholson left an annotation ()

Can anyone point me to the reference for this: "The courts have interpreted regular attendance to mean that a child should generally attend school each day." I'd like to link to it on my web page http://edyourself.org/articles/flexischo...

Fiona Nicholson left an annotation ()

I've asked Clare Rush (who has only made this 1 FOI here to date) whether she does intend to narrow the scope. It would seem not, from the time which has elapsed since the response. I am posting a summary and updates here http://edyourself.org/articles/flexischo...

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