DfE correspondence with Reading Borough Council

Sarah Gillbe made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

The request was partially successful.

From: Sarah Gillbe

3 February 2012

Dear Department for Education,

Please provide copies of correspondence you have written to Reading
Borough Council and guidance supplied to them, as referred to by
them, in connection with primary schools below the floor standards
in Reading. Of particular interest is additional correspondence
relating to George Palmer Primary School which has not been
provided by Reading Borough Council. However the focus of this
request is to establish guidance from the Secretary of State's
department to the Local Authorities in which there are schools
causing concern.

Yours faithfully,

Sarah Gillbe

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Department for Education

6 February 2012

Dear Ms Gillbe

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
2012/0008582.

Thank you
Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288
www.education.gov.uk

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Department for Education

1 March 2012

Dear Ms Gillbe,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 3 February. You requested copies of
all correspondence sent by the Department to Reading Borough Council about primary schools below the
floor standard and in particular any additional correspondence about George Palmer Primary School which
has not been provided by Reading Borough Council. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).

The Department holds some of the information you requested, but it is being withheld because the
following exemption applies to this information under section 36(2) (b) and (c) of the Act.  The Act
says at section 36(2) that certain information is exempt from disclosure if, in the reasonable opinion
of a qualified person (in the case of government departments, a Minister), disclosure of the information
under the Act:

 i)   would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice – section
36(2)(b)(i); or

 ii)  would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of
deliberation – section 36(2)(b)(ii); or

 iii) would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of
public affairs – section 36(2)(c)

These exemptions are subject to a public interest test. In favour of disclosure is the advantage of open
government and transparency of decision making. However this must be set against the disadvantage of
disclosure.

It is important that Ministers and officials are allowed space to develop their thinking and explore
available options, including with relevant stakeholders and partners.  It is also important for the
process of effective government and therefore in the public interest that officials are able to provide
free and frank advice to Ministers. Disclosing the information requested would work directly against
this, inhibiting Ministers and officials from discussing issues and options due to fear that information
about them might be disclosed at a later stage. Such disclosure would make it more likely that
individuals and organisations that were asked to offer advice in the future would be unwilling to do
so. This reduction in discussion and in the written collection of opinion could distort or restrain
dialogue and, as a result, the quality and range of advice to Ministers would be reduced. 

The information requested includes communications which if published would be likely to inhibit the free
and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. Publication is likely to result in a more
circumscribed exchange of views, and a general worsening in trustful relationships with sponsors and
other organisations. Publication could certainly adversely affect the quality of decisions.

Disclosing the information requested may also have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the schools
and attract negative publicity which could potentially disrupt the process of school improvement at
George Palmer and distress parents, staff and pupils. 

Section 36(2) (c) of the Freedom of Information Act is intended by Parliament to cover situations where
it is necessary to withhold information in the interests of good government. The section exempts from
disclosure information that would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the
effective conduct of public affairs.

Disclosure of the information requested would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public
affairs by inhibiting the effectiveness of future proposals or discussions with sponsors/
stakeholders. If we were to release information that was previously confidential with key stakeholders
this could directly influence their, and others, willingness to engage with our programmes of work.

Consequently we conclude that the balance of the public interest test comes down in favour of retention
of the information you have requested.

You also requested the Department's guidance to Local Authorities on Schools causing concern, this can
be accessed via the following link; [1]http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/sta...
You may also be interested in looking at the KS2 results for Reading, these can be accessed via the
following
link;  [2]http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/scho...

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,

Debbie Garbutt
Brokerage and Underperformance Division
Academies Delivery Group
[email address]
[3]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0008582.

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/sta...
2. http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/scho...
3. http://www.education.gov.uk/

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