Finding a working compromise

A colleague of mine sniggers whenever anyone suggests working from home. While I think only of sneaking an extra hour under the duvet, he always imagines these out-of-office employees spending the day indolently indulging themselves on the sofa.

Teachers have always had a similar attitude to home education, assuming that children kept out of the classroom will be, if not pleasure-seeking, also not fulfilling their learning potential, which most believe can be better developed at school.

Those who choose to home educate, on the other hand, often do so because their child has failed to thrive under the formal system.

But people claim there is a third option, which appears to be gaining credibility and popularity in primary schools across the UK: flexi-schooling. Under this system the child spends between two and four days at school, and is home educated the rest of the time.

For this to work, headteachers and teaching staff must liaise with parents over lesson plans. In some cases schools also offer online learning platforms as a link to maintain curriculum-based continuity.

Although its supporters say flexi-schooling is growing in the UK, the Department for Education has no clear figures because of the variability in the ways that schools record attendances and absences. But estimates put the numbers of students being flexi-schooled at about 2,000 - 3 per cent of those who are believed to be home educated.

Whatever the reservations of teachers, flexi-schooling appears to be a solution for small village schools in remote rural areas where the rolls have dropped so dramatically that they face closure. In these areas, previously home-educated children are switching to flexi-schooling as their parents fear they are missing out on vital socialising, while heads appreciate the important boost to the roll. Simon East, headteacher of Erpingham Primary School in Norfolk, says that without flexi-schooling "we would simply no longer be viable".

This is my last editorial for TESpro, which from next week will be incorporated into the main magazine. I'd like to put it on the record, however, that I shall not be working from home.

Jo Knowsley is acting editor of TESpro @tes.

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