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School operations

Flexible Learning Options (FLOs)

2  Student referrals to Flexible Learning Options

The referral of a child or young person to a Flexible Learning Option (FLO) should always be agreed between the referring school, the child or young person, their family or carer and the FLO (and if required, the region), and should first and foremost consider the best interests of the young person. Schools should make every effort to be inclusive to the needs of each of their students, and only in circumstances where this is not possible (and for the period that this is not possible), should referral to a FLO be considered.

The Department is committed to ensuring that the decision for a child or young person to move from a school to a FLO is made following:

  • a clear assessment of the needs of the child or young person
  • the school taking all reasonable steps to support that child or young person within the school environment

To improve consistency in how this assessment is made, it is expected that all referrals from government schools to FLOs will follow the referral process outlined in the sections below.

Schools should, in parallel to this process, continuously reflect on their own inclusive practices and implement strategies that support vulnerable children and young people to engage with learning. Refer to: Behaviour — Students.

Eligibility for a FLO referral

The specific eligibility criteria of each FLO will vary due to differences in structure, approach and local need, and should be determined in consultation with the relevant regional office. The child or young person should, at a minimum, present with multiple indicators that they are at high risk of disengaging from education (for example, relating to attendance, literacy/numeracy, behaviour or a history of school exclusion) or already disengaged from education.

Approval should be based on evidence provided by the school, the student, the family or carer and, if relevant, external services that are supporting the young person, to determine whether the transfer to a FLO is in the best interests of the young person. Approval should also take into account what steps have been taken by the current school to maintain the child or young person’s engagement in the mainstream setting.

Specific approval is required by the regional director for referrals of a child or young person that:
- is under 15 years of age
- is being referred following an expulsion
- is in out-of-home care
- has been involved in the youth justice system
- identifies as Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, or
- is eligible for funding under the Program for Students with Disabilities

Regional Director approval is not required for referrals to a flexible government school or to a flexible in-school program that is within the referring school.

Due consideration should be given when considering referral of primary aged students to a FLO, to determine if this is in their best interest. Where a primary-school aged student is presenting issues of disengagement or behaviours of concern, schools should always first consult their regional office to identify available supports before considering a referral to a FLO.

Process for referral from school

1  Assess student’s needs

Where a school considers a student to be at risk of disengaging, it should undertake a comprehensive assessment of their individual learning and support needs and the factors that are affecting their engagement with learning. In all cases, this should be conducted in consultation with the child or young person. The type of data or indicators that schools could use includes:

  • attendance data
  • involvement with student support services
  • other student engagement indicators (for example, friendships, involvement of family/carers, class participation, student feedback)
  • NAPLAN data
  • teacher judgement data
  • school response to the child or young person’s behaviour.

The specific nature of the assessments undertaken will vary depending upon the particular presenting issues, needs and circumstances of the individual child or young person (for example, family, culture, school experience, learning needs, future aspirations, pathways and transitions). Consideration should be given to the child or young person’s age, stage of development, cognitive abilities, previous history of assessment, any adjustments they may require to participate in assessments and other relevant information (for example from local health services).

2  Consider whether placement in a FLO is appropriate

Prior to consideration of a FLO, schools should be able to demonstrate that they have explored a broad range of early intervention and engagement strategies based on an assessment of the child or young person’s needs and in consultation with the child or young person and relevant professionals. These strategies should be focused on supporting and maintaining the child or young person’s engagement at school, and in almost all cases should include several of the following:

  • changes to timetable/classes (where appropriate)
  • in-class differentiation strategies
  • establishing a Student Support Group (SSG) / Team Around the Learner (TAL) with the child or young person, their family, relevant school staff and allied health professionals, case managers and mentors and so on
  • involvement of student welfare coordinator or primary welfare officer
  • developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the child or young person
  • referral to the Student Support Services (SSS), secondary school nurse or visiting teacher service if available
  • mentoring (for example, LOOKOUT Learning Mentor)
  • liaison with regional multidisciplinary teams

3  Compile referral documentation

The school should compile documentation relating to:

  • the child or young person’s needs, risks and strengths
  • the child or young person’s educational history, including indicators of disengagement
  • the range of strategies which the school and other services has trialed to maintain engagement or re-engage the child or young person and the outcomes of these strategies, including enablers and barriers to success
  • the expected outcomes for the child or young person in terms of learning, engagement, wellbeing, pathways and transition
  • endorsement from the child or young person and their parent or guardian for the referral

4  Seek approval of referral by principal of FLO host school

5  Seek approval from the regional director where child or young person:

  • is under 15 years of age
  • is being referred following an expulsion
  • is in out-of-home care
  • has been involved in the youth justice system
  • identifies as Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, or
  • is eligible for funding under the Program for Students with Disabilities

Regional Director approval is not required for referrals to a flexible government school or to a flexible in-school program that is within the referring school.

6  Recording enrolment on CASES21

Whilst the referring school maintains the enrolment for the student, an ‘INACTIVE’ classification in CASES21 should be used by the referring school, and the FLO host school should record the student’s ‘ACTIVE’ enrolment (applicable if the referring school is different to the FLO host school). It is expected that a review period is set by the referring school and the FLO (in consultation with the child or young person and their family), during which the transition plan for the child or young person is considered. If, following the review period, the child or young person, their family or carer and representatives from the FLO and referring school agree that it is not in the child or young person’s best interests to return to the referring school, then it is appropriate to transfer the enrolment to the FLO host school. A clear alternative plan for transition must be developed at this point (refer to transitions and pathways section below).

7  Where the host school maintains the enrolment

Where the host school maintains the enrolment, it is expected that, unless previously agreed between the referring school, the FLO host school and the region, that the Student Resource Package (SRP) funding for that student is transferred to the FLO host school with the student, in line with agreed length of program and other SRP funding components. For further details, refer to: Student Resource Package.

Schools are also expected to transfer SRP allocation for that student where enrolment is transferred.

8  A nominee from the referring school should attend an initial meeting

between the FLO leader(s), the child or young person and their family to establish objectives of their participation in the FLO. 

The referring school must ensure that regular communication is maintained (at least weekly during the first month, then at least monthly) with the FLO on the child or young person’s progress and transition plan, particularly where the referring school continues to hold the enrolment, or if it is agreed that the child or young person will return to the referring school. This must include reporting on attendance data and could also include visits to the FLO by staff from the referring school, or the child or young person attending the referring school on specified days (as agreed between the child or young person, their family, the referring school and the FLO).

Process for referral for a child or young person not enrolled in school

Where a child or young person is not enrolled or is completely disconnected from school, the child or young person, their parent/guardian or a case worker (for example, through the Navigator program) should in the first instance consider options for enrolment and engagement back into school with:

  • the child or young person’s previous school, or
  • the local neighbourhood government school (where the previous school is not identified, deemed not to be appropriate, interstate or not within reasonable distance of the child or young person’s current residence)

Schools should discuss with their local Department regional office if required.

Referral to non-government programs

In some cases, schools or regions may identify an appropriate non-government re-engagement program that is able to meet a child or young person’s needs. Whilst these arrangements are not directly within the scope of this Guidance and Procedures, they are covered by existing provisions under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) and under VRQA registration requirements.

Non-government or private re-engagement programs can take on a number of different forms and structures, such as:

  • standalone or franchised programs run by a registered independent or catholic schools or RTO, including those that operate within Victorian government schools
  • settings or programs funded through contracts with Victorian government schools, including NSSPs registered to deliver VCAL programs

Schools should consult with their region when considering referring a child or young person to a non-government re-engagement program. Schools are encouraged to exercise their duty of care and consult with the region to assess of the quality of the program or setting prior to referral to ensure that it can meet the needs of the child or young person. This involves ensuring that the program, school or setting:

  • is registered with the VRQA
  • promotes an environment that is respectful, inclusive and empowering
  • employs teaching staff that are appropriately qualified to deliver outcomes to children or young people with complex needs

Schools and regions should also be satisfied with the quality of service delivery that will be provided to the student at the re-engagement program. This includes ensuring that the program, school or setting will, for example:

  • develop and implement an IEP for the child or young person, outlining clear learning goals that are mapped to an accredited curriculum
  • assess the child or young person against the curriculum and monitor their progress
  • establish a transition plan for the child or young person that supports their pathway back to mainstream education, further training or employment

Contractual arrangements

In cases where a school refers a student to a FLO but retains the enrolment of the student, the enrolling school retains legal duty of care for the student. However, in many cases, the enrolling school may have little or no capacity to oversee the day-to-day running of the program. Therefore, it is vital that there is a written agreement between the school and provider, detailing the responsibilities of each party and the funding arrangements that are in place.

Where both the enrolling school and the re-engagement program provider are Victorian government schools a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is appropriate.

Where the provider is not a Victorian government school (for example, independent or catholic school, NSSP or RTO), a contract should be used. The Department has developed a suite of contracts and agreements that Victorian government schools should use for all re-engagement programs that are purchased from non-government providers (including outsourced VCAL).

Specific contracts and guidelines have been developed for the Purchasing of Vocational Education and Training (VET) Courses from External Providers.

Transitions and pathways from FLO

Ensuring a successful pathway from a FLO requires effective transition support that is embedded within the program activities from the time a child or young person enters the FLO. FLOs should prioritise the achievement of a meaningful education or employment pathway for the child or young person beyond the program. It is expected that FLOs have a clear transition plan for every student, documented within their individual education plan (IEP). FLOs must also undertake regular student support group (SSG) meetings for every student to identify their learning, social, emotional, behavioural and environmental needs and determine their most appropriate pathway.

The appropriate pathway will depend on the child or young person’s age, education level and goals for their future, as well as the accreditations present within the FLO (Table 2). For example, standalone flexible government schools (Category 1) may be well equipped to meet the child or young person’s learning needs and provide equivalent accreditations to that of other schools. As such, decisions around transition and pathways should first and foremost consider what is in the child or young person’s best interests. This should be established through regular discussions between the child or young person, their family, relevant school/FLO staff, relevant treating professionals and the region. These discussions should focus on level of engagement, progress measures and the ambitions of the child or young person. As a guide:

  • At all levels, FLOs should prioritise a focus on supporting a return to a mainstream school setting (if possible).
  • At middle secondary level, FLOs should focus on creating pathways back into mainstream school (if possible), or to accredited training or employment.
  • At senior secondary level, FLOs should focus on supporting young people to complete a senior secondary certificate, such as Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or VCAL, and a transition to further education, training or employment (for example, through Career Education Funding).

Linking the program learning activities with a broader curriculum (Victorian Curriculum F–10) or VCE/VCAL is important to ensure that children and young people have a range of potential education pathways open to them, and that achievements within the program are translated into other learning environments.

FLOs, through their host schools, should utilise the career education funding for senior secondary students (Years 10 to 12) to develop their knowledge of training and employment options and develop their skills and capabilities to effectively manage their careers and transitions. Host schools receiving career education funding should ensure that the FLOs are delivering on the full senior secondary curriculum, including career education. Further, each student should have a career action plan that recognises their interests and strengths, and supports a successful transition to further education, training or employment.

Supporting transition at different school levels

All school levels

Transition supported through:

  • staged return to school, which may involve individual children and young people slowly increasing the number of days they spend back at mainstream school each week
  • FLO staff providing outreach support to children and young people (and potentially mainstream school staff) once they return to mainstream classes for a period negotiated between the program and the enrolling school
  • school promoting inclusive environments and employing engagement strategies that address the needs of all their students
Middle and senior secondary levels only

Transition supported through:

  • exposure to real-world experiences in the workplace through work experience and structured workplace learning
  • a focus on development of employability skills in accordance with student’s capabilities and motivation
  • embedding careers curriculum as part of the program.
  • development of career action plans through career education funding

Where a child or young person leaves their enrolling school temporarily to participate in a FLO program, a representative from the enrolling school should maintain regular contact with the FLO to support the child or young person’s learning progress and should be involved in the planning of their return to school or transition to further education or training.

It is the responsibility of the school and FLO to ensure that students remain in education. Children or young persons of compulsory school age are required to be attending school (including FLO). Where a transition to other education, training or employment is being considered, strict guidelines and approval processes apply. For more information, refer to: Exemptions from Attendance and Enrolment Policy.

Summary of responsibilities

Chapter 2 of the Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidance and Procedures, outlining student eligibility for FLOs, the process for referral and transitions and pathways options

Reviewed 29 May 2020

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