Information about your dealings with Stonewall [Extraneous material removed]

Ermine Amies made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Ofsted,

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Please provide any information that you hold answering to any of the following descriptions:

1. Any application you made in 2019 or 2020 to be a “Stonewall Diversity Champion” or to be included on Stonewall’s “Workplace Equality Index,” including any attachments or appendices to those applications. Please redact personal details if necessary.

2. Any feedback you received in 2019 or 2020 from Stonewall in relation to either application or programme.

3. Any other communication you have received from Stonewall in 2019 or 2020 unless privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure (but if you claim privilege or exemption in relation to any material, please say in broad terms what the material is and the basis on which you claim to be entitled to withhold it).

4. Full details of any equality impact assessment you carried out connected with any of these applications (including any equality impact assessment carried out prior to an earlier application of the same kind, if no further assessment was done).

5. Details of the total amount of money you paid to Stonewall (i) in 2019; (ii) in 2020, whether or not as payment for goods or services.

6. Whether you intend to continue your membership of any Stonewall scheme in the future, and if so which.

Yours faithfully,

Ermine Amies

InformationRequest, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

We will consider your request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
2000 and any other legislation that may apply.

 

Should there be any problems or difficulties in processing your request,
we will be in touch with you again shortly. Otherwise, we will respond to
your request within 20 working days from the date we received it, as
required by the Act.

 

This should be by 4 March 2021; however, if we can respond sooner we will
do so.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Elizabeth Banks

Information Rights and Access Manager

Ofsted

 

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Nicola Tanner, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

1 Atodiad

Dear Ermine Amies

 

Please find attached a letter regarding your ongoing FOI request.

 

Regards,

Nicola Tanner
Information Access Officer | Information Rights and Access Team (IRAT) |
Ofsted | 2 Rivergate | Temple Quay | Bristol BS1 6EH
Tel 03000 131 087

Visit the Ofsted website at [1]www.gov.uk/ofsted

Follow Ofsted on twitter at [2]http://twitter.com/Ofstednews

 

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Gadawodd Ermine Amies anodiad ()

OFSTED wrote: "we hold some information matching the description of your request. We consider that the exemption at section 43 of the FOI Act applies to the information we hold. As section 43 is a qualified exemption, we are required to consider whether the balance of the public interest lies in upholding the exemption or releasing the information.

Under Section 10(3) of the Act, we are able to extend the statutory time limit of 20 working days, as we require more time to consider whether the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption or disclosing the information. This consideration of the public interest is still ongoing."

Nicola Tanner, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

2 Atodiad

Dear Ermine Amies

 

Please find attached our response to your recent FOI request.

Regards,

Nicola Tanner
Information Access Officer | Information Rights and Access Team (IRAT) |
Ofsted | 2 Rivergate | Temple Quay | Bristol BS1 6EH
Tel 03000 131 087

Visit the Ofsted website at [1]www.gov.uk/ofsted

Follow Ofsted on twitter at [2]http://twitter.com/Ofstednews

 

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Dear Nicola,

Thank you for your response. I note you have claimed Section 43(2) exemption and will respond shortly.

Yours,

Ermine Amies

Nicola Tanner, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Thank you for your message. I am out of the office on Monday 15 March, if
you need an urgent reply, please forward your message to
[Ofsted request email].

Regards,

Nicola Tanner
Information Delivery Officer
Ofsted Information Management Team

2 Rivergate, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EH

Direct Line: 0300 013 1087
[email address]

[Ofsted request email]

[1]www.ofsted.gov.uk
Ofsted on Twitter at [2]http://twitter.com/Ofstednews 

 

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Dear Ofsted,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I've spoken to the ICO who said you might be willing to consider undertaking an internal review as it's less than 6 months since you responded to me.

I am writing to request an internal review of Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills's handling of my FOI request 'Information about your dealings with Stonewall, with particular focus on the public interest test, which I think has overlooked some important points in favour of disclosure.

Please review your response and, if the exemption is upheld, provide all of the requested information not covered by the confidentiality clause.

The purpose of this request is to understand your dealings with an organisation that is pushing gender ideology and the depth of their influence on your policies and procedures. DfE guidelines explicitly stop gender ideology in schools on the grounds of safeguarding so the level of public interest in your response is very high.

You stated:
“We consider that disclosure of information relating to the submissions made to Stonewall , their feedback in response, and the correspondence exchanged with the Stonewall Client Account Manager (as a member of the Diversity Champions scheme) would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of Stonewall. The processing of the Workplace Equality Index submissions, and the correspondence exchanged as a member of the Diversity Champions scheme, both involve the use of Stonewall’s expertise and resources, for benchmarking and assessment - which are marketed as commercial services. To place details of these products into the public domain would undermine the future commercial activities of Stonewall, in being able to offer their service for payment, and would be contrary to the terms and conditions of our own membership of the scheme. “

Detailed information on the format, submissions, feedback information and pricing is in the public domain as other organisations have fully answered similar FOI requests.

So there's no case for declining to fulfill this request on the basis of commercial sensitivity and protection of Stonewall’s programme format, policy advice on company policies and procedures, marking and pricing.

You will be aware there is strong public interest in Stonewall's influence on the public sector. There are 4 areas of public interest you should consider in your review.

1) The strong case for openness and transparency in your dealings with Stonewall, given the Equality Minister's call for all public sector organisations to leave Stonewall.

2) The accountability for spending public money on advice from an organisation that the Reindorf Review found has an erroneous understanding of the law. Their advice, directions on policy and requirements for improving your ratings in the workplace equality index are based on the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. It purports to provide organisations with advice on complying with the law on equality and diversity. In fact, it has been pursuing its own law reform agenda in the guise of ‘training’ and its benchmarking tool which disadvantages other protected groups.

3) The interest in the unhealthy level of influence by a gender ideology lobbyist on your organisation which is responsible for inspecting to ensure schools are complying with the DfE guidelines is high.There is also concern on the impact that may have on safeguarding of children in schools. Stonewall is a focused lobby group with a particular constituency that opposes those guidelines. It has told member organisations to silence staff and contractors who hold gender critical beliefs or suffer reputational damage. This has resulted in a climate of fear and sometimes a hostile environment so staff who disagree fear speaking out.

4) Your Public Sector Equality Duty under section 149 of the Equality Act requires you to act rationally and lawfully, and not to place improper or arbitrary fetters on the manner in which they make decisions, in the performance of their public functions. Policies that misstate the law or are based on an erroneous understanding of the law may themselves be unlawful.

Public authorities have different priorities and duties from a lobbyist. They’re not entitled to privilege the interests of groups defined by one or two specific protected characteristics over all other groups defined by the other 7 or 8 protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. If they allow themselves to be guided by a pressure group’s retelling of the law as it wishes it were, rather than the law as it is to discriminate against other groups, they are likely to act unlawfully. So this is an issue of Protection of the public.

5) Withholding the information requested obstructs your execution of your Public Sector Equality Duty to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not and the duty to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

So the weight is on sharing the data, even if it uncomfortably exposes failings in equality practice and Stonewall influence, not on withholding information using s43(3) to protect Stonewall’s business.

With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could review your response, and, if the exemption is upheld, provide details of the public interest test conducted around the decision.

Having a confidentiality clause in place does not guarantee that information will not be disclosed under FOIA.

Indeed, the ICO says you should be wary of attempts to impose a blanket confidentiality clause on all the information contained in a contract. You will be aware that ICO guidance also advises that while confidentiality clauses can be useful in helping to identify commercially sensitive information, they should not be applied to an entire contract. (https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...). Please review your response and, if the exemption is upheld, provide all of the requested information not covered by the confidentiality clause.

In light of the information which is publicly available, if the S43(3) exemption is upheld, please show how the release would be prejudicial to Stonewall’s commercial activities and the evidence that this disclosure 'would, or would be likely to' prejudice the concerns of the third party.

You may wish to consider following the example of comprehensive responses made by other bodies when asked the same/similar questions. Here are some examples which show the detail provided.

The responses provided by Sussex University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

The responses provided by Edinburgh University: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

The responses provided by ACAS: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Yours faithfully,

Ermine Amies

InformationRequest, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Dear Ms Amies,

Thank you for your email in which you requested a review of Ofsted’s handling of your request.

As you are unhappy with the original response you received to your request for information, we will carry out a review of the decision. The review will concentrate on the handling of your request and the application of the exemptions used to withhold the information.

We will send you the outcome of the review once it has been completed.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Banks
Information Rights and Access Manager
Ofsted

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Gadawodd Ermine Amies anodiad ()

Internal Review due by 28 July.

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you. Please advise when you will report. It is now 52 working days since I wrote requesting an internal review

Yours,

Ermine Amies

InformationRequest, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

Dear Ms Amies,

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately, we have been delayed in responding to your request, however we are endeavouring to respond to you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Banks
Information Rights and Access Manager
Ofsted

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Dear Elizabeth,

You will have seen the BBC investigation into the influence of Stonewall on public bodies in the papers over the weekend, on the Today programme and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/p09yj...

The influence of Stonewall and the information I requested is particularly relevant to your organisation because of the influence on the curriculum of schools and how schools treat children and staff with gender critical views and safeguarding fo gender non conforming children.

It is now 78 working days since you agreed to conduct a review of your response to my FOI request.

The BBC investigation increases the weight of public interest in your response. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Ermine Amies

Richard McGowan, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

1 Atodiad

Ms Amies,

Please find attached the outcome of the internal review you requested.

I am very sorry for the time take to provide this response.

Due to its size, the information to be disclosed will be sent following this email.

Yours sincerely,

Richard McGowan
Head of Information Rights & Data Protection
External Relations
Ofsted

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Nicola Tanner, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

9 Atodiad

Please find attached the additional disclosed information following your
internal review.

Regards,

Nicola Tanner
Information Access Officer | Information Rights and Access Team (IRAT) |
Ofsted | 2 Rivergate | Temple Quay | Bristol BS1 6EH
Tel 03000 131 087

Visit the Ofsted website at [1]www.gov.uk/ofsted

Follow Ofsted on twitter at [2]http://twitter.com/Ofstednews

 

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Nicola Tanner, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills

1 Atodiad

Dear Ms Amies

 

Further to the internal review response from Richard McGowan on 9
November, we have identified some additional correspondence that should
have been considered for disclosure to you in your previous FOI request.
We have processed this correspondence in the same way as the previous
information, and the disclosed material is attached.

 

I am very sorry this was not identified and considered earlier.

Regards,

Nicola Tanner
Information Access Officer | Information Rights and Access Team (IRAT) |
Ofsted | 2 Rivergate | Temple Quay | Bristol BS1 6EH
Tel 03000 131 087

Visit the Ofsted website at [1]www.gov.uk/ofsted

Follow Ofsted on twitter at [2]http://twitter.com/Ofstednews

 

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