2. Student referrals and placement in 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 (staff login required) involves schools, FLOs, and/or department 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 must 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.
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 the VCE Vocational Major or Victorian Pathways Certificate (VPC) 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 must 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 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 Disability (PSD) or Disability Inclusion Tier 3 funding (DI Tier 3).
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: (staff 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 for the student. IEPs are required for students in statutory out-of-home care (OOHC), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students eligible for student-level disability funding (that is, Program for Students with Disability (PSD) or Disability Inclusion Tier 3 funding (DI Tier 3)
- 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 and seek endorsement of the referral by the FLO principal
The school should compile documentation relating to:
- endorsement from the student and their parent or carer 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.
The school must seek the endorsement of the referral by the principal of the FLO host school before completing the online FLO referral form.
4. Complete the FLO online referral approval process
- 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 registered with the VRQA as specialist or specific purpose or to a flexible in-school program that is within the referring school.
5. Recording student placement in a FLO
All student placements in a FLO campus or FLO in school program must be recorded in CASES21. The referring school is responsible for updating CASES21 to reflect the placement status for a student attending a FLO. The process is outlined in the (staff login required) and further information can be found in .
6. 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.
Schools are also expected to transfer pro rata SRP allocation for a student where enrolment is transferred.
7. Initial meeting between referring school, FLO, student and family
A nominee from the referring school should facilitate and attend an initial meeting between the FLO, the student and their family to establish objectives of their participation in the FLO.
8. 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 tracking and monitoring capability of the online referral approval system, the FLO must 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/carer or a case worker (for example, through the ) 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.
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 attendance, 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 or foundation secondary certificate, such as Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) including the VCE Vocational Major or VPC, and a transition to further education, training or employment (for example, through ).
FLOs must link program learning activities with a broader curriculum (Victorian Curriculum F–10) or VCE including the VCE Vocational Major or VPC. 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 FLOs). Where a transition to other education, training or employment is being considered, strict guidelines and approval processes apply. For more information, refer to: .
Summary of responsibilities
- Identify student at risk of disengagement and engage with the region on strategies for improving engagement
- Implement, monitor and assess in-school re-engagement strategies and liaise with the student’s family or carer (utilising SSGs and TAL approach)
- Provide IEP, data, evidence and relevant information to receiving school regarding the student’s attendance, behaviour and achievement
- Transfer funding if student is moving to a FLO campus
- Request approval from the FLO host school
- Submit online referral for area and/or regional director approval (if applicable)
- Ensure that the student’s enrolment is transferred (if appropriate) and check-in at least weekly within the first 2 months to ensure the student has not disengaged
- Ensure the referring school provides all relevant information and ensure that the school has exhausted other engagement strategies
- Agree on funding transfer in writing
Region or area team
- Area teams to review referrals for all students seeking a placement at a Flexible Learning Campus (including for the VCE Vocational Major or Victorian Pathways Certificate)
- Regional director to provide approval via online system if the student is under 15 years of age, being referred following an expulsion, in out-of-home care, has been involved in the youth justice system, identifies as Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, or if the student is eligible for student-level disability funding (that is, Program for Students with Disability (PSD) or Disability Inclusion Tier 3 funding (DI Tier 3)
- If required, assist referring schools and FLOs to resolve issues of student referral to represent the student’s best interests
- Track and monitor referral data to ensure process is being followed and to inform broader service delivery
- Establish a key contact person to monitor student’s progress and outcomes, particularly while they remain enrolled in referring school (establish a review period to determine the student’s best interests for transition)
- This contact person should attend SSGs for the student
- In cases where a school refers a student to a FLO but retains the enrolment of the student, the referring school continues to owe a legal duty of care to the student. The referring school must undertake reasonable steps to reduce the risk of foreseeable harm. This includes, but is not limited to, information sharing with the host school to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the student
- Develop an IEP to articulate the student’s educational, social and behavioural needs
- Maintain record of student’s attendance
- Ensure that the student has a plan for transition out of the FLO, either back to the referring school or to further training or employment
- Regularly assess the student and monitor their progress
- Establish SSG meetings to keep all key stakeholders informed
- Provide regular attendance and progress updates to the referring school
- Provide current enrolment and attendance data to region as part of census process, including specifying where the student is participating in a FLO campus or in-school program
Region or area team
- Provide advice and support on FLO online referral approval process including timely consideration of requests
- Ensure that FLOs are meeting requirements through SSP or AIP process and school reviews
- Ensure that schools are maintaining enrolment and attendance records by campus as part of school reviews
Referring school (or new school)
- Develop an IEP
- Ensure tailored supports for the student are in place
- Collect data and monitor attendance and academic progress to ensure the student does not disengage
- Follow-up with family or carer if the student is not attending
- Ensure that student placement is accurately recorded on CASES21, ensuring the date has been recorded in the CASES21 as outlined in the (staff login required)
- Provide information on the student’s progress to the mainstream school, including interventions that have worked (and those that have not)
- Ensure that the student’s enrolment is transferred and check-in regularly (at least weekly within the first 2 months) to ensure the student has not disengaged (for instance, through SSGs between the student, school and the FLO)
Region or area team
- Initiate contact with principal of mainstream school to support transition where required
- Ensure that the regional multidisciplinary supports have been engaged to support an effective transition
- Support school to continuously improve inclusive practice
Reviewed 27 February 2023