Amendments to DfE web site - Extension to Trial of Use of Face Coverings in Classrooms

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Department for Education,

Background

The Department for Education (DfE) publishes a web page, “Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak”. This page includes links to guidance called “Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance“. The latter was first published on 2 July 2020 as HTML under a different URL but was subsequently replaced by pdf downloads.

On 16 March, the DfE reconverted “Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance”, to HTML (Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). The online change record shows states “We have converted the schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance to HTML to make it more accessible. It does not contain any changes to policy.”

Web Page Modification and Reversal

On 26 March (time 13:20), an update to “Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance“ was published containing the following change in Section 2 (“Ensure face coverings are used in recommended circumstances”)

“These measures will be in place until Easter.“

was replaced with

“These measures will continue to be in place after Easter.”

At 18:55 on 26 March, the page was modified to reverse out this important change.

Requested Information

Definitions and Scope

“Subject page” - “Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance” : www.gov.uk/government/publications/actio...

“Subject section” – Section 2 of the Subject Page “Ensure face coverings are used in recommended circumstances”

“The Department” – Department for Education

Reason for Request

The DfE’s ‘advice’ that secondary children should wear face coverings in classrooms, between 8 March to the end of the Spring term, is controversial in the absence of compelling evidence. Were the latter to exist, it would have been published. Therefore, the current arrangements is an experiment being conducted for a limited period.

Given the public interest in this experiment, any change to its extent would be a major decision with a direct impact on millions of children and their parents. Therefore, you will appreciate the importance of understanding how the apparent change of policy (to extend the experiment) was made might be made, and subsequently reversed, on 26 March.

Questions

1. Re the first change made to Section 2, released on 26 March (ca 13:55), please provide all communications (including letters, emails and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the changes made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page

2. Re the reversal of the change to Section 2 (released ca 18:55 on 26 March), please provide all communications (including letters, emails and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the reversal of the changes made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page

3. Please provide a copy of the editorial process or procedural instructions applicable to DfE web site showing the process for preparation, approval and release of changes.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Gillow

MINISTERS, Department for Education

1 Atodiad

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. If you are
contacting us about coronavirus (COVID-19) you can find advice and
guidance on [1]GOV.UK. This includes [2]guidance for educational settings
in England. You can also contact our coronavirus helpline on 0800 046
8687. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to
4pm.

For emails and other written enquiries you will usually receive a reply
within 15 working days. You can find out how the department processes your
personal information by reading our [3]Privacy Notice.

 

 

[4]cid:image001.jpg@01D42E43.58989C30

 

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/collection...
https://www.gov.uk/government/collection...
3. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Our Reference: FOI - 2021-0020432
Deadline for response: 28 April 2021

Dear Mr. Gillow

I am handling your freedom of information request that was received into
the department on 28 March 2021.

Your request was made as a result of updates to the [1]schools coronavirus
(COVID-19) operational guidance on 26 March 2021.

You requested:
 

 1. Re the first change made to Section 2, released on 26 March (ca
13:55), please provide all communications (including letters, emails
and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the changes
made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page
 2. Re the reversal of the change to Section 2 (released ca 18:55 on 26
March), please provide all communications (including letters, emails
and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the reversal
of the changes made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page
 3. Please provide a copy of the editorial process or procedural
instructions applicable to DfE web site showing the process for
preparation, approval and release of changes.

The information held is inclusive of all amendments made to the schools
operational guidance on that date and therefore the information that is
relevant to your request is being separated and is taking longer than
expected.

Your request will be answered but the response will be in the next 14
days.

I apologise for the delay.

Kind Regards
Amanda Robinson

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...

Dear Department for Education,

Attention: Amanda Robinson

By law, the Department for Education, should normally have responded promptly and by 27 April 2021 at the latest. My request for information was, I believe, clearly expressed and tightly scoped, resulting from an issue of considerable public interest.

I am now requesting an urgent internal review. Unless I receive a satisfactory response by 12th May I propose to complain to the Information Commissioner about the Department.

Yours faithfully,

CHP Gillow

MINISTERS, Department for Education

1 Atodiad

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. If you are
contacting us about coronavirus (COVID-19) you can find advice and
guidance on [1]GOV.UK. This includes [2]guidance for educational settings
in England. You can also contact our coronavirus helpline on 0800 046
8687. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to
4pm.

For emails and other written enquiries you will usually receive a reply
within 15 working days. You can find out how the department processes your
personal information by reading our [3]Privacy Notice.

 

 

[4]cid:image001.jpg@01D42E43.58989C30

 

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/collection...
https://www.gov.uk/government/collection...
3. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr. Gillow

 

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 28 March
2021. Your request was made as a result of updates to the [1]schools
coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance on 26 March 2021.

You requested:
 

 1. Re the first change made to Section 2, released on 26 March (ca
13:55), please provide all communications (including letters, emails
and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the changes
made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page
 2. Re the reversal of the change to Section 2 (released ca 18:55 on 26
March), please provide all communications (including letters, emails
and phone calls) relating, directly or incidentally, to the reversal
of the changes made to the Subject Section on the Subject Page
 3. Please provide a copy of the editorial process or procedural
instructions applicable to DfE web site showing the process for
preparation, approval and release of changes.

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(“the Act”).

Further to my email of 27 April, the Department has considered whether the
public interest lies in disclosing or withholding the information. 

A copy of the information which can be disclosed is enclosed. The
Department holds the remainder of the information you requested, but it is
being withheld under the following exemptions:

Section
 

* 36(2)(b)(i) - the free and frank provision of advice
* 36(2)(b)(ii) - the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes
of deliberation
* 36(2)(c) - would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective
conduct of public affairs

Under Section 36(2), the Department is not required to provide
information, if in the reasonable opinion of a qualified person (a
Minister in the case of Government Departments) disclosure of the
information under the Act would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely
otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs. 

In relation to your request, a Minister has decided that, in his
reasonable opinion, disclosure of some of the information is likely to
have this prejudicial effect and therefore the exemption in Section 36
applies.

Section 36(2) is a qualified exemption and therefore a public interest
test has been carried out. In doing so the following factors have been
taken into consideration:

Disclosure of this information would demonstrate transparency and will
show that we are working collabrativley and at pace to achieve the best
outcome.

If we release this information there is nothing that the requester will
gain other than the identification of the department involved in the
guidance clearance and that the error was not identified or corrected
during the final clearance before publishing.All other guidance had been
published with the correct lines at the same time as the schools guidance.

Releasing this information increases risks within our relationship with
the other government department including a possible break down of frank
and open discussion and free deliberation, that allows us to ensure
guidance across departments is consistent. It could potentially result in
inconsistent guidance across departments if officials are not able to
suggest amends for consideration freely.

In this instance, we were working at pace and there was a mistake which,
if we attribute it to one party, would be damaging to the guidance
clearance and publication process, and the ongoing necessary colabration
in this ever changing area.

To note we will also be applying s40(2) (personal data) to withhold
personal information within the information in scope. Personal data is
that which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that
data, or from that data and other information which is likely to be in, or
to come into, the possession of the requestor.  Disclosure of this
information would contravene a number of the data protection principles in
the General Data Protection Regulations/Data Protection Act 2018, and
would be regarded as ‘unfair’.  By that, we mean the likely expectations
of the data subject that his or her information would not be disclosed to
others and the effect which disclosure would have on the data subject. 
Section 40(2) is an absolute exemption and is not subject to the public
interest test.

I would like to clarify that the line you identified that was published at
13:20 on 26 March was a mistake and was rectified within a few hours
(18:55 on 26 March).  You may have noted that the text in question
published at 13:20 did not align to the correct text published in both our
[2]Face Coverings in Education guidance and our [3]Further Education
Operational guidance.

Q1. Attached is the redacted chain of events that is in scope of your
request for the initial change to guidance that was published on 26 March
at 13:20.

Q2. Attached is the redacted chain of events that is in scope of your
request for the reversal of the change to guidance for the line in
question on 26 March at 18:55.

Q3: GOV.UK publishing for the Department for Education is managed by the
DfE Digital Communications Team (DCT) in accordance with the [4]Government
Digital Service process. The publishing process for COVID-19 content is as
follows:

 

 1. Request for publication made by DfE policy team.
 2. A content designer is assigned. The content designer creates the
content in the Whitehall Publishing Content Management Sysytem using a
draft document, in consultation with the DfE policy team.
 3. A final document is prepared by the DfE policy team and submitted to
the content designer to be added to Whitehall Publishing.
 4. The draft in Whitehall Publishing is then checked by a second content
designer (referred to as [5]2i in the GDS process). They review the
content in Whitehall Publishing against the original draft document
and also check that the correct clearances have been provided. All
GOV.UK content published by DfE requires clearance by a deputy
director (Senior Civil Servant) and may also require communications
clearance and/or further clearances as specified for COVID-19 content.
  
 5. The publication is passed to a 3^rd person in the DCT to publish.
Ahead of publishing they will recheck content and clearances for a
third time.  

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by copyright.
You are free to use it for your own purposes, including for private study
and non-commercial research, and for any other purpose authorised by an
exception in current copyright law. Documents (except photographs) can be
also used in the UK without requiring permission for the purposes of news
reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, would
require the permission of the copyright holder.

Most documents produced by a government department or agency will be
protected by Crown Copyright. Most Crown copyright information can be
re-used under the Open Government Licence
([6]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...). For
information about the OGL and about re-using Crown Copyright information
please see The National Archives website
-[7]http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
.

Copyright in other documents may rest with a third party. For information
about obtaining permission from a third party see the Intellectual
Property Office’s website at [8]www.ipo.gov.uk.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request. 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

Yours Sincerely
Amanda Robinson
 

 

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...
2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...
3. https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...
4. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-publi...
5. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-publi...
6. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o... blocked::http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/o...
7. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor... blocked::http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/infor...
8. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ blocked::http://www.ipo.gov.uk/
http://www.ipo.gov.uk/

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear Mr. Gillow

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request which I received
on 5 May, asking for an urgent internal review due to the late response to
your initial FOI (ref: FOI 2021-0020432) which had a system deadline of 28
April.

I acknowledge that your initial request for information was clearly
expressed and tightly scoped.

I emailed you on Tuesday 27 April to apologise for the delay and explained
that the information we held was inclusive of all amendments made to the
school’s operational guidance on that date and therefore the information
that was relevant to your request was being separated and was taking
longer than expected.

I said that your request would be answered and that the response would be
in the next 14 days (by 11 May). I have now provided a response to your
initial FOI today (7 May).

You have requested an urgent internal review, I updated you on 27 April
and explained the delay and I have now provided you with a response
therefore we will not carry out an internal review unless you contact us
to say you still require us to undertake one.

Yours Sincerely
Amanda Robinson