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School operations

Flexible Learning Options (FLOs)

2  Student referrals to Flexible Learning Options

The referral of a student to a Flexible Learning Option (FLO) should always be agreed between the referring school, the student, 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 student to move from a school to a FLO is made following:

  • a clear assessment of the needs of the student
  • the school taking all reasonable steps to support that student within the school environment.

FLO Online Referral Approval Process

The Department has developed the online referral approval process to ensure that all young people referred to a FLO are tracked within the online system. This provides a greater understanding of young people’s movement into FLOs, enables monitoring of enrolments and provides analytical reports showing trends and student movements.

The FLO online referral approval process (login required) involves schools, FLOs, and/or DET regional staff submitting a young person's referral details via an online form to the local regional office for approval by Local Area Approver, or, in some specific circumstances, the Regional Director.

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 student’s needs and in consultation with the student, their family and relevant professionals.

Schools should, in parallel to this process, continuously reflect on their own inclusive practices and implement strategies that support vulnerable students to engage with learning.

Refer to:

When to make an online FLO referral

The following processes should be followed when determining whether a FLO referral should be made via the online referral approval system.  

All schools referring a student to a Flexible Learning Campus must use the online referral approval system for Local Area Approver or Regional Director approval. This includes students undertaking Satellite VCAL certificates at a campus external to the main campus. 

When considering referring a student to a FLO, the student 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 be disengaged from education.

The online referral approval system should be used in all cases where a student is referred to a FLO, which is operating on a flexible learning campus.

However, referrals to the following FLOs are excluded from the online referral approval process: 

  • to flexible government schools:
    • Lynall Hall Community School
    • Croydon Community School
    • Sydney Road Community School
    • Oakwood School (all campuses)
    • Kensington Community High School
    • Yarra Me School.
  • to flexible in-school programs for students that are currently enrolled within the school that hosts the program.

To determine whether attending at a FLO is in the best interests of the young person, 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. The steps that have been taken by the current school to maintain the student’s engagement in the mainstream setting should also be considered.

Specific additional approval is required by the Regional Director for referrals to a FLO for a young person who:

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

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. Refer to: Support in identifying students at risk (login required).

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 student. The type of data or indicators that schools could use includes:

  • attendance data
  • involvement with student support services
  • other student engagement indicators (for example, peer relationships, involvement of family/carers, class participation, student feedback)
  • individual student assessment data
  • scaffolded response to the student’s behaviour.

The specific nature of the assessments undertaken will vary depending upon the particular presenting issues, needs and circumstances of the individual student (for example, family, culture, school experience, learning needs, future aspirations). Consideration should be given to the student’s age, stage of development, cognitive abilities, previous history of assessment, any adjustments they may be required 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 student’s needs and in consultation with the student and relevant professionals. These strategies should be focused on supporting and maintaining the student’s engagement at school, and the school should be able to demonstrate that a range of strategies have been attempted. These adjustments typically would include several of the following:

  • changes to timetable/classes (where appropriate)
  • in-class differentiation strategies
  • establishing a SSG/Team Around the Learner (TAL) with the student, their family, relevant school staff and allied health professionals, case managers and mentors and any other attendees, as required
  • involvement of student welfare coordinator or primary welfare officer
  • developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the student. IEPs are required for students in statutory out-of-home care (OOHC), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students receiving funding through the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), students in youth justice (custody and community) and students with a re-engagement program contract. IEPs are also recommended for students with additional needs, students not achieving their full potential and students at risk of disengagement
  • 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:

  • endorsement from the student and their parent or guardian for the referral
  • the student’s needs, risks and strengths
  • the student’s educational history, including indicators of disengagement
  • the range of strategies which the school and other services have utilised to maintain engagement or re-engage the student, and the outcomes of these strategies including enablers and barriers to success
  • the expected outcomes for the student in terms of learning, engagement and wellbeing, along with the possible pathways.

4  Seek endorsement of referral by principal of FLO host school

5  Complete the FLO online referral approval process

Complete the FLO online referral approval process (login required) to seek Local Area Approver approval. Specific approval is also needed from the Regional Director where the student:

  • 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.

The Online Referral Process 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 student and their family), during which the transition plan for the student is considered.

7  Transfer of Student Resource Package, following FLO host school enrolment

The referring school, in agreement with the FLO host school and the region, must transfer the Student Resource Package (SRP) and any relevant targeted funding initiatives to the FLO in line with the agreed length of program and other SRP funding requirements.

For further details, refer to: Student Resource Package.

Schools are also expected to transfer pro rata SRP allocation for a student where enrolment is transferred.

8  Initial meeting between referring school, FLO leader(s), student and family

A nominee from the referring school should facilitate and attend an initial meeting between the FLO leader(s), the student and their family to establish objectives of their participation in the FLO. 

9  Regular communication and progress updates between referring school and 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 student’s progress and transition plan. This must include reporting on attendance data and could also include visits to the FLO by staff from the referring school, or the student attending the referring school on specified days (as agreed between the student, their family, the referring school and the FLO). The referring school should attend each SSG meeting.

As part of the enhanced tracking and monitoring capability of the online referral approval system, the FLO will be asked to provide a progress/status update on the student after 3 months.

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 student’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 student’s current residence)
  • once the student is enrolled in a mainstream school or FLO host school, a FLO referral can be facilitated if necessary.

Schools should refer to the DET Placement Policy and 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 student’s needs. Whilst these arrangements are not directly within the scope of these Mandatory Guidelines 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 RTOs, 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 student to a non-government re-engagement program. Schools are encouraged to exercise their duty of care and consult with the region to assess the quality of the program or setting prior to referral to ensure that it can meet the needs of the student. 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 students with complex needs.

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

  • develop and implement an IEP for the student, outlining clear learning goals that are mapped to an accredited curriculum
  • assess the student against the curriculum and monitor their progress
  • establish a transition plan for the student 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 student enters the FLO. FLOs should prioritise the achievement of a meaningful education or employment pathway for the student 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 student’s age, education level and goals for their future, as well as the accreditations present within the FLO. For example, standalone flexible government schools (Category 1) may be well equipped to meet the student’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 student’s best interests. This should be established through regular discussions between the student, 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 student. As a guide:

  • At all levels, FLOs should prioritise a focus on supporting a return to a mainstream school setting (where possible).
  • At middle secondary level, FLOs should focus on creating pathways back into mainstream school (where 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).

FLOs must link program learning activities with a broader curriculum (Victorian Curriculum F–10) or VCE/VCAL. This is important to ensure that students 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 students' 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 students slowly increasing the number of days they spend back at mainstream school each week
  • FLO staff providing outreach support to students (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 workplace visits, 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.

Where a student 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 student’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. Students 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 10 May 2021

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