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education.vic.gov.au

Flexible Learning Options (FLOs)

Policy last updated

10 May 2021

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Refer to contact information at bottom of this page


Date:
February 2020

Policy

Policy

This policy sets out the requirements for school referrals to Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) and quality assurance requirements in FLOs.

Summary

  • A FLO is an educational setting that supports students at-risk or already disengaged from education.
  • Students at risk of disengagement should be attending FLOs only in instances where their needs are not able to be met in mainstream school and should only be used as a short term option.
  • The referral of a student to a FLO should be agreed upon between the referring school, the student, their family or carer and the FLO (and if required, approval by the region).
  • It is mandatory that schools follow the Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures set out in the Guidance tab when considering student eligibility, referral processes and contractual agreements between the referring school and the provider (where appropriate).
  • Where appropriate, schools must follow the FLO online referral approval process (staff login required) to gain approval from the Local Area Executive Approver, or, in some specific circumstances, the Regional Director — refer to Referrals below for more information.

Details

Types of FLOs

There are 3 interrelated categories of FLOs within the Victorian Government education system:

  1. Flexible learning government schools — Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) registered schools offering a flexible, individualised curriculum
  2. Flexible learning campuses — learning settings or programs that are standalone, registered campuses of Victorian government schools under the VRQA
  3. Flexible in-school programs — learning programs that are delivered within the school. They can be in partnership with other schools or external providers. These programs should be incorporated into a student’s existing learning program.

Non-government FLOs (re-engagement programs)

There are a range of non-government flexible settings that offer similar supports, such as VCAL delivered by a non-school provider. These are not within the scope of this policy.

Further information on these settings can be found in the Department’s Re-engagement Programs Policy.

Eligibility to attend a Victorian government FLO

Students at risk of disengagement should be referred to FLOs only in instances where their needs are not able to be met in mainstream school, and where in-school strategies (such as access to specialist services and classroom differentiation) are unsuitable or have proven to be ineffective. Students may be considered at risk of disengaging based on the following indicators:

  • low or non-attendance
  • literacy and / or numeracy outcomes
  • behaviours of concern
  • a history of school exclusion.

The student should present, at a minimum, multiple indicators that they are at high risk of disengaging from education, or are already disengaged from education.

FLOs should be considered a short term intervention and the focus should be on supporting the student to return to their host school, or into further training or employment.

For detailed guidance on eligibility, refer to: Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures.

Referrals

The referral of a student to a 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.

The specific eligibility criteria of each FLO will vary.

FLO Online Referral Approval Process

Schools and/or Department regional staff must use the FLO Online referral system (login required) to gain approval from the Local Area Approver when referring a student to:

  • a FLO learning campus of the referring school or another school. This includes Satellite Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) certificates at a campus/site external to the main campus.
  • a FLO in-school program offered by another school.

Specific additional approval is required by the regional director for referrals of students who:

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

A referral is not required for:

  • flexible learning government schools
  • other flexible learning settings and arrangements not in scope (refer to Scope and definitions).

For further information on referral considerations and processes, refer to: Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures.

Transitions and pathways from FLOs

FLOs should prioritise the achievement of meaningful education or employment pathways for students beyond the program. It is expected that FLOs have a clear transition plan for every student documentated in their Individual Education Plan (IEP). FLOs must also undertake regular Student Support Group (SSG) meetings for every student.

For detailed guidance on supporting transition at different school levels, see the the Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures.

Quality assurance in FLOs

Schools should draw on the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) in order to effectively plan and target resources towards initiatives that will have the greatest impact on improving student outcomes.

FLOs play an important role in complementing the work of schools to ensure that the system continues to support students at risk of disengaging, and provides them with access to a high quality education. FLOs are not considered a separate education sector in Victoria, and operate within the frameworks and policies of Victorian government schools.

For additional guidance on FLOs and how they can embed FISO principles in their planning, refer to: Developing Key Directions for the next School Strategic Plan: Flexible Learning Option settings (login required).

Definitions

Flexible Learning Options 
A FLO is an educational setting that supports students at-risk or already disengaged from education.

FLOs are not a separate education sector in Victoria and operate within the frameworks and policies of Victorian government schools.

FLOs complement the work of schools to ensure that all students can access a high quality education. They generally offer highly individualised learning plans and have a strong focus on providing holistic support for a student’s engagement and wellbeing.

Contact

  • The student’s school is the first point of contact for queries regarding the FLO policy.
  • Regional offices may also be contacted for queries regarding the Flexible Learning Options policy.
  • Policy owner: Engaging Students at Risk Branch

Contact

Refer to contact information at bottom of this page


Guidance

Flexible Learning Options — Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures

The Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures (Guidance and Procedures) specify expectations regarding the operations of existing Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) and their interactions with schools.

The Guidance and Procedures contain the following chapters:

  1. Aims and introduction
  2. Student referrals to FLOs
  3. Quality in FLOs
  4. Definitions and references

1 Introduction

1  Aims and introduction

Aims of the Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures

The Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures (Guidelines and Procedures) specify expectations regarding the operations of existing FLOs and their interactions with schools. Specifically, the Guidance and Procedures aim to:

  • provide an overarching policy framework that underpins the operation of FLOs within the Victorian government school system
  • support the broader vision of the Victorian government school system to be inclusive of the needs of all students
  • clarify roles and accountabilities of FLOs, schools and the Department of Education and Training (Department) in relation to the operation of FLOs
  • outline the process for seeking DET approval for FLO placements
  • highlight the requirement for FLOs to be, or to operate within, registered specialist or specific purpose schools with the Victorian Registrations and Quality Authority (VRQA)
  • support the continued improvement and development of high quality FLOs
  • complement the core responsibilities of schools as outlined in the Policy and Advisory Library (PAL) for schools.

The Guidelines and Procedures do not include issues relating to FLO establishment, resourcing, and infrastructure or funding, as these matters will continue to be addressed at a regional level.

Introduction and context

The Victorian government school system aims to be inclusive and support the needs of all students, regardless of background or circumstance. This means promoting a safe and positive learning environment where all students can reach their learning potential. The primary focus is on ensuring that every student receives high quality learning experiences and wellbeing support through mainstream schooling.

It is acknowledged that for a small number of students, a highly flexible and individualised learning environment, coupled with more intensive wellbeing support and evidence based interventions, can increase engagement and learning outcomes.

Flexible learning options (FLOs) play an important role in complementing the work of schools to ensure that the system continues to support these students, and provide them with access to a high quality education. FLOs are not considered a separate education sector in Victoria and operate within the frameworks and policies of Victorian government schools. They are offered as part of a continuum of support where a targeted, intensive intervention is required to respond to behavioural, therapeutic and learning needs of a child and young person at a particular time in their educational journey. 

Children and young people should be attending FLOs only in instances where their needs are not currently being met in mainstream school, and where in-school strategies (such as access to specialist services and classroom differentiation) are unsuitable, unavailable and/or have proven to be ineffective at the current time. In most cases, FLOs should be considered as short to medium term arrangements and retain a strong focus on supporting a student’s pathway back into mainstream school, or onto further education or training.

Scope and definition of FLOS

These Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures apply to all FLOs that are hosted or administered by a registered Victorian government school. A FLO is defined as an educational setting that primarily supports students that are at-risk of disengaging from education, or those that have already disengaged from education. Students may be considered 'at-risk' of disengaging based on:

  • low or non-attendance
  • low literacy and/or numeracy outcomes
  • behavioural concerns
  • a history of school exclusion.

FLOs are generally characterised by highly individualised learning structures and plans coupled with a strong focus on providing holistic support for a student’s engagement and wellbeing. For the purposes of these Guidelines and Procedures, it is useful to consider FLOs in 3 interrelated categories:

1. Flexible learning government schools

Victorian Registrations and Quality Authority (VRQA) registered specialist or specific purpose schools that primarily enrol students that are at-risk or have already disengaged from education, such as community schools.

Flexible government schools are explicitly categorised within this Policy so as to provide guidance on the expectations of quality (refer to Section 3) and the process for referrals for these schools and to recognise their role in providing a more flexible, individualised learning environment for students with complex needs. The Policy should be taken as supplementary to those which are outlined in PAL (for example, those concerning enrolment and placement), and are not intended to represent a re-classification of these schools, nor to articulate a position on whether a setting should be a standalone school.

2. Flexible learning campuses

Learning settings or programs that are standalone, registered specialist or specific purpose campuses of Victorian government schools that are specifically targeted at students at risk of disengagement, and are provided as an alternative to the main campus.

A flexible learning campus for the purpose of this Policy may include:

  • a registered campus of the school identified for the purpose of running a re-engagement program
  • defined-period arrangements, such as teaching units, whereby students are transferred full-time for a short period (such as two terms) to support re-engagement
  • satellite VCAL program delivered by the school
  • FLO learning settings that is a registered campus of one school but jointly funded by several schools, or co-supported by the Region.

3. Flexible in-school programs

Some schools offer flexible, in-school learning programs that have been specifically designed to support students who are enrolled at that school and who are at risk of disengagement. These programs operate on main school campus sites and not as separate, registered campuses of those schools. These programs are incorporated into a student’s Individual Education Plan (such as partial withdrawal programs).

Flexible in-school programs are designed to be short-term interventions (generally one term) to complement or extend other strategies aimed at addressing disengagement, such as classroom differentiation.

Other flexible settings and arrangements not in scope

It is recognised that a range of other flexible settings exist within Victoria. While elements of these Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures may be relevant to these arrangements, they are not directly in scope. Examples of these arrangements include:

  • independent or catholic schools, or programs facilitated by independent or catholic schools
  • those facilitated by a non-school senior secondary provider (NSSP) (for example, community or private organisation). While these arrangements are not strictly included in this Guidance and Procedures, guidelines and contract arrangements for schools when considering transitioning students to these settings are covered in Section 2
  • specialist schools that are not available to all at-risk or disengaged students (cohort-specific), such as hospital schools and Parkville College
  • registered home schooling arrangements
  • programs delivered by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) targeted at senior secondary students
  • TAFE or RTOs that deliver VCAL programs as an NSSP.

These Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures also acknowledge that some FLOs offer outreach programs or services. These services are not directly covered by this document.


2 Student referrals to Flexible Learning Options

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


3 Quality in Flexible Learning Options

3  Quality in Flexible Learning Options

As with all educational settings within the Victorian government system, the focus for Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) should be on student achievement, wellbeing and engagement. FLOs should strive to set high expectations and achieve progress in outcomes for every child or young person, regardless of their starting point, and utilise a range of qualitative and quantitative methods to measure this.

The Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) provides a basis for education settings to effectively plan and target their resources towards initiatives that will have the greatest impact on improving student outcomes. It is expected that all education settings, including FLOs, engage with FISO to drive student progress.

The expectations of FLOs outlined in this section are closely aligned with evidence of best practice within FLOs across Australia. Specifically, research shows that the following elements are evident in high quality FLOs:

  • students can plan and influence their learning, and have a say in programs that respond to their needs and goals
  • staff build positive, caring relationships with students and take a student-sensitive approach to wellbeing
  • teaching and support assesses and responds to the needs of individual students
  • flexible and challenging curriculum leads to recognised achievement and accreditation
  • strong relationships exist with referring schools, enabling successful student transitions back into mainstream education, training and work
  • teachers are of high quality; knowledgeable, skilled and empathetic, and are provided with ongoing professional learning
  • there is a culture of high expectations for growth, development and achievement for every child or young person
  • targeting of support and resources is systematic and focused on meeting students’ needs
  • effective partnerships provide students with personalised, holistic support, and post-program pathways for success
  • there is strong leadership and governance across partnerships that are committed to improving programs and outcomes for students.

Implementing the FISO Improvement Model

FISO is an evidence-based, system-wide, school-led improvement framework to increase the focus on student learning and build the capacity of the school system in Victoria. Every Victorian government school is supported to implement FISO by focusing on key areas of school improvement known to have the greatest impact.

The FISO Improvement Model has been designed to lift student achievement in all education settings, including FLOs, and for all students, including those with additional needs. Leaders and staff in FLOs should be using FISO to focus their efforts on evidence-based initiatives that will deliver the greatest improvement in outcomes for their students.

The Department has provided Specific Guidance to Assist with the Implementation of FISO (login required) within FLOs. The guidance supports the application of the 8 Essential Elements (login required) and provides practical examples of key improvement strategies and actions for FLO environments as a starting point for FLOs as they undertake the stages of the FISO Improvement Cycle.

The 8 essential elements are:

  1. documented curriculum plan, assessment and shared pedagogical approaches
  2. school-based professional learning program developed and implemented that supports the school’s identified improvement strategies
  3. school improvement team formed to develop, oversee and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the annual implementation plan: for improving student outcomes
  4. student voice, leadership and agency in own learning activated so students have positive school experiences and can act as partners in school improvement
  5. whole school approach to health, wellbeing, inclusion and engagement
  6. moderation of common student assessment tasks
  7. data collection, analysis and evaluation of student learning growth over time
  8. explicit use of evidence-based school improvement strategies and teacher professional practice activities.

FISO Improvement Cycle

Flowchart showing continuous improvement cycle for students. Described in FISO Improvement Cycle link below

The FISO Improvement Cycle allows FLOs to implement a more effective continuous improvement cycle by focusing on better outcomes for students. The pre-review self-evaluation, school review, SSP and AIP all form part of the four-year strategic planning cycle. It is expected that FLOs are incorporated into this cycle through this process.

School strategic plan and annual implementation plan

FLOs should always be captured within the school’s SSP and AIP through key improvement strategies that encompass actions, evidence of impact, activities and milestones, responsibilities, timelines and indicative budget.

School leaders should integrate FLO improvement strategies within the existing school AIP template, or develop a standalone AIP. These are captured using the Strategic Online Planning Tool (SPOT). This decision should be agreed between the principal and the senior education improvement leader (SEIL), based on the:

  • type of FLO (see Table 3 for guidance)
  • size of FLO
  • level of difference in key improvement strategies and FISO focus areas between FLO and host school
  • ability to plan and monitor progress across school. 

It is expected that SSPs and AIPs are regularly updated in line with changing priorities and progress, and should incorporate FLOs where applicable.

Refer to: Annual Implementation Planning (AIP).

Indicative AIP treatment by FLO type*

Flexible government school

AIP to be developed as per existing process and requirements

Flexible learning campuses
  • Separate AIP to be developed for FLO or
  • FLO to be integrated into AIP of host school with separate key improvement strategy element
Flexible in-school programs

FLO to be integrated into AIP of host school with separate key improvement strategy element

*This is intended to be indicative guidance only. Professional judgement of SEILs and principals should always be exercised in determining treatment of SSPs and AIPs for schools with FLOs.

School review process

From 2018 onwards all FLOs will be explicitly included in the school review process. Each year, the Department will identify schools in cycle for review that have an existing FLO campus or in-school program and work with the host school to determine how this FLO setting will be included in the school review process. Flexible government schools will continue with their existing review process arrangements.

Reviews include compliance with the Minimum Standards for School Registration, and take account of the school’s progress towards, and achievement of the goals and targets outlined in their SSP and AIP.

Generally, FLOs will be considered during the review of their host school in cases where they are incorporated within the host school’s AIP. Conversely, in cases where the FLO develops a separate AIP, the review process will be undertaken separately.

However, in all cases the decision for the review process to be undertaken will be based on agreement between the school principal and senior education improvement leader (SEIL), or escalated to the relevant Executive Director, School Improvement if required.


4 Definitions and references

4  Definitions and references

AIP
Annual implementation plan, outlining how a school plans to implement, monitor and evaluate its school strategic plan

Community VCAL
An arrangement whereby the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning is fully delivered by a registered non-school senior secondary provider but contracted by a school.

Department
Department of Education and Training of the State of Victoria.

FISO
The Framework for Improving Student Outcomes, an evidence-based framework for schools focused on lifting student outcomes.

FLO
Flexible Learning Option, as defined in section 1 of this policy.

Individual education plan or individual learning plan
A set of strategies to address the particular educational needs of a child or young person in order to maximise their participation and achievement in education.

PAL
Policy and Advisory Library that contains legislative requirements, governance, advice and operational policies for Victorian government schools.

Region or regional team
Refers to the 4 Department of Education and Training regions, including the 17 area teams.

Satellite VCAL
The delivery of the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning by a school, alone or in partnership with external agencies, at an external location.

SRP
Student Resource Package, which provides student-based and school-based funding to schools

SSP
School strategic plan — a school’s statement to its community that outlines its vision, goals and targets, and how these will be achieved, over the next 4 years.

SSS
Student Support Services — in-school specialised assistance for students facing a range of barriers to learning to achieve their educational and developmental potential.

Student support group
A partnership in the educational planning process between the student, teachers, principal and student’s family or carers, in order to develop an individual education plan and monitor a student’s progress.

TAL
Team Around the Learner — a framework for individualised, holistic and team-based approach to support learners at risk of disengaging. TAL involves key people working together to coordinate a plan to meet the needs of the learner and to support them to engage in education.

VCAL
Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.

VCE
Victorian Certificate of Education.

VET
Vocational Education and Training, as defined in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006.

VRQA
Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority.

References

ARTD Consultancy (2013) Innovative Community Action Networks (ICAN) A sustainable, evidenced-based approach for engaging young people in learning. South Australian Department for Education and Child Development

Black, R., Lemon, B. and Walsh, L. (2010) Literature review and background research for the National Collaboration Project: Extended Service School Model. Melbourne: Foundation for Young Australians.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) (2015) Student wellbeing: a literature review. Government of New South Wales.

Cole, P., Jane, G., and McCarthy, J. (2011) Flexible Learning Options. For DEECD (unpublished)

Cole, P. (2016) Flexible Learning Options: Issues and Reform Possibilities. For DET (unpublished)

Davies, M., Lamb, S. and Doecke, E. (2011) Strategic review of effective re-engagement models for disengaged learners. University of Melbourne, Centre for Research on Education Systems.

Dryfoos, J.G. (1999) The role of the school in children’s out-of-school time. The Future of Children, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 117-134

Freeman, J. and Simonsen, B. (2015) Examining the Impact of Policy and Practice Interventions on High School Dropout and School Completion Rates: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Review of Educational Research June 2015, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 205–248

Gutherson, P., Davies, H. and Dasziewicz, T. (2011) Achieving successful outcomes through Alternative Education Provision: an international literature review. CfBT Education Trust

Hancock, K. and Zubrick, S. (2015) Children and young people at risk of disengagement from school: literature review. University of Western Australia, for the Commissioner for Children and Young People Western Australia

Harper, A., Heron, M., Houghton, E., O’Donnell, S. and Sargent C. (2011) International evidence on alternative provision. INCA Thematic Probe. Slough, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Hayes, D. (2012) Re-engaging marginalised young people in learning: The contribution of informal learning and community-based collaborations. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), 641-653.

ICAN (2010) Progress report. Government of South Australia. Adelaide: Department of Education and Children’s Services.

KMPG (2009) A framework for education provision to children and young people at risk of disengaging or disengaged from school. Report for DEECD. Unpublished.

Mills, M. and McGregor, G. (2010) Re-engaging students in education: Success factors in alternative schools. Brisbane: Youth Affairs Network Queensland.

Mills, M. and McGregor, G. (2014) Re-engaging young people in education: Learning from alternative schools. London: Routledge.

Mitchell (2014) What Really Works in Special and Inclusive Education: Using Evidence-based teaching strategies. Second ed. Routledge, Oxon.

OfSTED (2017) School report: Michaela Community School, UK. Quality Framework for Flexible Learning Options

Phillips, R. (2013). Toward authentic student-centered practices: Voices of alternative school students. Education and Urban Society, 45(6), 668-699.

Plows, V. and Te Riele, K. (2016) Professional learning in flexible learning programs: Supporting staff to foster socially inclusive schooling. Victoria University, Melbourne

Schwab, J., Johnson, Z., Ansley, B., Houchins, D. & Varjas, K. (2016) A Literature Review of Alternative School Academic Interventions for Students With and Without Disabilities Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 60:3, 194-206

Smyth , J., McInerney, P. and Fish, T. (2013). Blurring the boundaries: from relational learning towards a critical pedagogy of engagement for disengaged disadvantaged young people. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 21(2), 299-320.

Sullivan & Sadeh (2016) Does the Empirical Literature Inform Prevention of Dropout among Students with Emotional Disturbance? A Systematic Review and Call to Action, Exceptionality, 24:4, 251-262

Tate Consulting (2017) Alternative Provision: Effective Practice and Post 16 Transition. Department for Education, UK

Te Riele, K. (2014). Putting the jigsaw together: Flexible learning programs in Australia. Final report. Melbourne: The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning

Te Riele, K., Wilson, K., Wallace, V., McGinty, S. & Lewthwaite, B. (2017) Outcomes from Flexible Learning Options for disenfranchised youth: what counts? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21:2, 117-130

Thompson (2014) “What’s the alternative?” Effective support for young people disengaging from the mainstream. University of Nottingham, Princes Trust, UK.

Wierenga & Taylor (2015) The Case for Inclusive Learning Systems: Building More Inclusive Learning Systems in Australia, Sydney: Dusseldorp Forum

Wilkins, J., & Huckabee, S. (2014). A literature map of dropout prevention interventions for students with disabilities. Clemson, SC: National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities, Clemson University

Woodward Consultants (2012) Review of the Pavilion School. Confidential report for DEECD. Unpublished.

Zyngier, D. and Gale, T. (2003). Non-traditional and non-systemic educational Programs in Frankston Mornington Peninsula secondary Schools. Melbourne: Faculty of Education, Monash University.

Zyngier, D., Black, R., Brubaker, N & Pruyn, M (2014) The Contribution that Alternate, Pull‐out and Externally‐Provided Programs within Schools Make towards Student Learning, Well‐Being and Pathways. Research report for DEECD, Monash University, Melbourne.


Resources

Resources

There are a range of support services, strategies and resources available to schools and flexible-learning options (FLOs) to support the engagement and wellbeing of vulnerable students. These include: 

For assistance accessing these services or resources, schools should contact their senior education improvement leader (SEIL) or other appropriate regionally based staff member.

Professional development

Professional development opportunities are available to assist school leaders and teachers in building their capacity and addressing issues relating to student wellbeing and disengagement. As Victorian government school staff, staff within FLOs can access all of the same professional development opportunities as other school staff. Refer to:

Other capacity building opportunities may be available locally, including outreach services offered by FLO providers. Schools should contact their SEIL in the first instance for more information.

Students at Risk Tool


Reviewed 31 March 2020