Flexi Spaces are in-school flexible learning spaces. They are deeply considered learning environments designed to support children who are disengaged from school and who often face challenging personal circumstances. They promote inclusion and incorporate evidence-based design principles that respond directly to the learning needs of disengaged students.
While many schools offer off-campus alternative learning settings, Flexi Spaces create a physical space within their school campus to provide the student, their family, and the school with the support to reconnect within the mainstream environment. This is less disruptive and supports a sense of belonging. Students can maintain a connection with current activities where possible, and make a smooth transition back to mainstream learning.
The benefits of an in-school flexible learning response, like a Flexi Space as compared to off-campus programs, is that Flex Spaces allow students to:
remain with their peers and friendship groups;
keep a regular routine;
have a strong sense of belonging as part of their school community; and, continue their schooling with an uninterrupted curriculum.
Moving a student to an off-campus program sends them a message that they’re not part of their school community, interrupts their curriculum, and disrupts their friendships and connections. It also limits the curriculum opportunities that they can access, with off-campus learning settings often having fewer and narrow curriculum choices.
Whilst principals follow operational guidelines, which include details of minimum requirements and setting up a process for identifying students who are disengaged or at risk of disengaging, no two Flexi Spaces are the same. They are designed by the school in collaboration with the school community. Students may range from early secondary, through to the senior years. Students may be experiencing single or multiple barriers to their learning, including family disruption, health issues, mental health issues, and other social, emotional, or behavioral issues. Some students require early intervention, while other students may require more intensive support.
Importantly, the provision of Flexi Spaces sends a clear message that every student is valued and that the school will do whatever it takes to support them to stay and succeed in their mainstream school.
The approaches vary in schools, however, the Flexi Space environment is also generally accessed by other classes and student groups across the school. Some schools use the space for co-teaching models; this allows other students to role model learning behaviors to students in the Flexi Space, while also sharing pedagogy practice across the teaching team.
Flexi Spaces exhibit high-quality approaches marked by high expectations including:
High-quality and targeted teaching focused on reconnecting students and improving their outcomes;
Access to the Australian Curriculum on the same basis as their peers. (Other school-delivered alternative responses often provide students access to VET courses, or numeracy and literacy programs outside the Australian Curriculum. FlexiSpaces are about high quality curriculum offerings, providing differentiation to respond to student needs, rather than providing ‘watered down’ curriculum options);
A high-quality built environment that promotes the message of value and facilitates flexible learning opportunities;
Multi-disciplinary approaches in collaboration with other agencies such as Child Safety, Youth Justice, and Communities (where required);
Strengthened school capability in creating inclusive and flexible learning environments that cater to the needs of all their students;
Strong engagement with parents as important partners;
Increased student agency and responses to student voice and needs.
Reference: Teacher Magazine
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