1. Aims and introduction
Aims of the Flexible Learning Options Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures
The Flexible Learning Options (FLOs) 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 in relation to the operation of FLOs
- outline the process for seeking approval for FLO placements
- outline the requirements for recording a student placement in a FLO on CASES21
- 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.
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 to provide guidance on the expectations of quality (refer to Section 4) 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 FLO
- 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
- a campus external to the main campus that delivers the VCE Vocational Major or Victorian Pathways Certificate
- 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 and foundation secondary provider (NSSFSP) (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.
These Mandatory Guidelines and Procedures also acknowledge that some FLOs offer outreach programs or services. These services are not directly covered by this document.
Reviewed 27 February 2023