Governing documents and related materials

Waiting for an internal review by Borden Grammar School of their handling of this request.

Dear Borden Grammar School,

The purpose of this email is to formally request information I am entitled to under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please provide the following information:

1) The minutes of all Full Governing Body meetings on and after 19th May 2017 and any documents filed with these minutes

2) The minutes of all Standard Committee meetings on and after 25th April 2017 and any documents filed with these minutes

3) The minutes of all Personnel and Pastoral Committee meetings after 1st Feb 2017 and any documents filed with these minutes.

4) The minutes of all Finance and Resources Committee meetings on and after 8th May 2017 and any documents filed with these minutes

5) The most recent School Improvement Plan

6) The trust’s full annual report and financial statements for the year ended 31 August 2016

7) The trust’s annual budget allocation

Please comply with your obligation under S11 of the Freedom of Information Act and provide all the requested information in electronic format in response to this email; it is not acceptable to offer inspection or to send physical copies of minutes etc. by post at my cost.

Please note that there is no exemption for material in draft form - the fact that minutes or other papers have not as yet been finalised or circulated is not a valid reason under the Freedom of Information Act to refuse to provide it to requesters, so I expect you to provide all draft copies.

Should your response be deficient in any way, I shall of course require an internal review and if necessary apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision notice under their powers and obligations set out in S50 of the Act.

Please also note that I have made this request of my own volition, I require the data, and I have not corresponded with, intiated contact with or received any contact whatsoever from the individual who originally requested this information in two FOI requests on WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Dear Borden Grammar School,

I note you have not responded to this FOI request "promptly, and in any case within 20 working days" as required by the law.

I have therefore asked the Information Commissioner's Office to intervene, in the following email.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
From: Doug Paulley
To: [email address]
Date: Friday, March 2, 2018, 2:23:58 PM
Subject: S50 request: Borden Grammar School's governing documents etc.
Files: correspondence.pdf
--====----====----====----====----====----====----====----====----====----===--
Dear ICO

I sent the attached FOI request to Borden Grammar School on 1st
February 2018.

The mail server logs show that the email containing this request was
successfully transmitted to the school's email server, which responded
indicating receipt "250 2.0.0 Ok: queued as 4DDFC13F6E1"

Feb 1 02:01:51 crow exim[10671]: 2018-02-01 02:01:50 [10671] 1eh4CE-0002m6-7n => [email address] F=<[email address]> P=<[email address]> R=dnslookup_returnpath_dkim T=remote_smtp_dkim_returnpath S=5020 H=mail.bordengrammar.kent.sch.uk [81.145.130.2]:25 PRX=[]:0 I=[46.43.39.103]:49239 X=TLS1.2:ECDHE_RSA_AES_256_GCM_SHA384:256 CV=no DN="C=GB,ST=Kent,L=Sittingbourne,O=Borden Grammar School,OU=ICT Dept,CN=mailsrv.bordengrammar.kent.sch.uk,EMAIL=[email address]" C="250 2.0.0 Ok: queued as 4DDFC13F6E1" QT=0s DT=0s

I know that the email address [email address] works
because other recent FOI requests have been successfully received by
the school who have responded to them, also the school have been
corresponding with me on other matters.

The school have not responded to the FOI request.

Please intervene,

thank you

Doug Paulley
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Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Dear Borden Grammar School,

I note that you did not respond to my FOI request, nor to the ICO's chasing, and now you have been served with an ICO decision notice requiring you to respond to my request by 24th May.

Do so, or I will oblige the ICO to make written certification of your failure to the High Court for the purposes of prosecuting you for contempt of Court.

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Miss L Bateman, Borden Grammar School

Dear Mr Paulley,

Further to your FOI request, having taken advice we consider your
request to be vexatious.

If you are not happy with our response, please refer the matter to the
ICO.

Regards

Miss L Bateman
PA to Headteacher
Borden Grammar School
Tel: 01795 424192 Ext: 106

show quoted sections

Dear Miss L Bateman,

I can't refer the matter to the ICO unless and until you have investigated my complaint that you have mishandled my FOI request.

S50(2)(A) of the Freedom of Information Act states that the ICO cannot consider a request for assessment until the complainant has "exhausted any complaints procedure which is provided by the public authority in conformity with the code of practice under section 45". So please conduct an internal review in accordance with that requirement.

The internal review is on two grounds.

1) Your refusal notice is not in compliance with the obligations set out in S17 of the Freedom of Information Act, which states, inter alia,

"(5) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is relying on a claim that section 12 or 14 applies must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice stating that fact."

I suspect you are relying on the S14 exemption but you have failed to cite it and did not respond at all within the statutory time period.

"(7) A notice under subsection (1), (3) or (5) must—
(a) contain particulars of any procedure provided by the public authority for dealing with complaints about the handling of requests for information or state that the authority does not provide such a procedure, and
(b) contain particulars of the right conferred by section 50."

Your eventual response complied with neither requirement.

2) The S14 "vexatious" exemption patently does not apply.

The ICO's guidance on S14, at https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio... , states, inter alia,

"the key question to ask is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress."

Requests for governing documents, governors and committees minutes, the school improvement plan and budgetary details are costly not going to cause an unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. It is a reasonable request for information about the governing of the school, for information that should be routinely published, is easily retrieved and produced and should cause no disruption, irritation or distress.

The guidance further states:

"Whilst most people exercise this right responsibly, a few may misuse or abuse the Act by submitting requests which are intended to be annoying or disruptive or which have a disproportionate impact on a public authority. "

My request is not intended to be annoying, disruptive or to cause any disproportionate impact.

"Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. "

Complying with my request ought not result in any disruption, irritation or distress, let alone disproportionate or unjustified such.

'the Tribunal concluded that ‘vexatious’ could be defined as the “…manifestly unjustified, inappropriate or improper use of a formal procedure'".

This request is patently not vexatious.

LJ Arden stated:

“…the emphasis should be on an objective standard and that the starting point is that vexatiousness primarily involves making a request which has no reasonable foundation, that is, no reasonable foundation for thinking that the information sought would be of value to the requester or to the public or any section of the public.”

The information is of value to me. It is patently of value to the public, including existing, potential and previous pupils of the school, and parents / guardians of such. So much so that a pupil requested the same information, until you persuaded them to withdraw their request.

The guidance goes on to identify indicators of vexatious requests, including:

Abusive or aggressive language
Burden on the authority "The effort required to meet the request will be so grossly oppressive in terms of the strain on time and resources, that the authority cannot reasonably be expected to comply, no matter how legitimate the subject matter or valid the intentions of the requester."
Personal grudges "For whatever reason, the requester is targeting their correspondence towards a particular employee or office holder against whom they have some personal enmity."
Unreasonable persistence
Unfounded accusations
Intransigence
Frequent or overlapping requests
Deliberate intention to cause annoyance
Scattergun approach
Disproportionate effort
No obvious intent to obtain information "The requester is abusing their rights of access to information by using the legislation as a means to vent their anger at a particular decision, or to harass and annoy the authority, for example, by requesting information which the authority knows them to possess already."
Futile requests
Frivolous requests

My request transparently has none of the above indicators. I requested the information because I want the information and because I want the information to be in the public domain, including being available to the original requester. The request is entirely reasonable and transparently not vexatious. It has a serious purpose and is quite clearly not motivated by any desire to create disruption or annoyance.

"Some practical examples of scenarios where the value of a request might be limited are where the requester;
Submits a request for information that has no obvious relevance to their stated aims.
Argues points rather than asking for new information.
Raises repeat issues which have already been fully considered by the authority.
Refuses an offer to refer the matter for independent investigation, or ignores the findings of an independent investigation.
Continues to challenge the authority for alleged wrongdoing without any cogent basis for doing so.
Is pursuing a relatively trivial or highly personalised matter of little if any benefit to the wider public"

None of these apply.

"The ICO considers it good practice to include the reasoning for the decision in the refusal notice"
You didn't.

For Goodness' sake just get on with your S45 internal review, poor even better, produce the requested information.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Dear Miss L Bateman,

Are you intending on responding to my internal review?

If not, I would rather you said so rather than just leave me hanging. I can then go back to the ICO, as you suggested.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Dear Miss L Bateman,

As you have not issued the Information or a valid exemption notice, failed to undertake and internal review and didn't even respond to my message asking you to confirm that you don't intend to undertake an internal review, I have submitted the below S50 request to the Information Commissioned.

I shall not give up, you know. This will go to a second decision notice, and if necessary criminal prosecution for contempt of court. So I would suggest you start to engage

Dear ICO

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/g...

Further to your decision notice in this case, please note that the authority has responded by using the S14 exemption.

I don't consider the exemption notice, or the exemption itself, to be properly made out. I thus requested the authority undertake an internal review. The authority has failed to respond to my internal review request within the recommended 20 working days; and the only communication they have sent leads me to the belief that they don't intend to conduct the review at all:

"Further to your FOI request, having taken advice we consider your request to be vexatious.
"If you are not happy with our response, please refer the matter to the ICO."

I feel that I have exhausted the internal review process, and should therefore be grateful if you could conduct an investigation under S50 of the Freedom of Information Act as to whether their response to my FOI request is compliant with their obligations under the Act.

My concerns are as set out below, which I take from my request for internal review.

My 50 request is on two grounds.
1) The refusal notice is not in compliance with the obligations set out in S17 of the Freedom of Information Act, which states, inter alia,
"(5) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is relying on a claim that section 12 or 14 applies must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice stating that fact."
I suspect they are relying on the S14 exemption but they have failed to cite it and did not respond at all within the statutory time period.
"(7) A notice under subsection (1), (3) or (5) must—
(a) contain particulars of any procedure provided by the public authority for dealing with complaints about the handling of requests for information or state that the authority does not provide such a procedure, and
(b) contain particulars of the right conferred by section 50."
Their eventual response complied with neither requirement.
2) The S14 "vexatious" exemption patently does not apply.
The ICO's guidance on S14, at https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio... , states, inter alia,
"the key question to ask is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress."
Requests for governing documents, governors and committees minutes, the school improvement plan and budgetary details are clearly not going to cause an unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. It is a reasonable request for information about the governing of the school, for information that should be routinely published, is easily retrieved and produced and should cause no disruption, irritation or distress.
The guidance further states:
"Whilst most people exercise this right responsibly, a few may misuse or abuse the Act by submitting requests which are intended to be annoying or disruptive or which have a disproportionate impact on a public authority."
My request is not intended to be annoying, disruptive or to cause any disproportionate impact.
"Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress."
Complying with my request ought not result in any disruption, irritation or distress, let alone disproportionate or unjustified such.
'the Tribunal concluded that ‘vexatious’ could be defined as the “…manifestly unjustified, inappropriate or improper use of a formal procedure'".
This request is patently not vexatious.
LJ Arden stated:
“…the emphasis should be on an objective standard and that the starting point is that vexatiousness primarily involves making a request which has no reasonable foundation, that is, no reasonable foundation for thinking that the information sought would be of value to the requester or to the public or any section of the public.”
The information is of value to me. It is patently of value to the public, including existing, potential and previous pupils of the school, and parents / guardians of such. So much so that a pupil requested the same information, until the authority persuaded them to withdraw their request.
The guidance goes on to identify indicators of vexatious requests, including:
Abusive or aggressive language
Burden on the authority "The effort required to meet the request will be so grossly oppressive in terms of the strain on time and resources, that the authority cannot reasonably be expected to comply, no matter how legitimate the subject matter or valid the intentions of the requester."
Personal grudges "For whatever reason, the requester is targeting their correspondence towards a particular employee or office holder against whom they have some personal enmity."
Unreasonable persistence
Unfounded accusations
Intransigence
Frequent or overlapping requests
Deliberate intention to cause annoyance
Scattergun approach
Disproportionate effort
No obvious intent to obtain information "The requester is abusing their rights of access to information by using the legislation as a means to vent their anger at a particular decision, or to harass and annoy the authority, for example, by requesting information which the authority knows them to possess already."
Futile requests
Frivolous requests
My request transparently has none of the above indicators. I requested the information because I want the information and because I want the information to be in the public domain, including being available to the original requester. The request is entirely reasonable and transparently not vexatious. It has a serious purpose and is quite clearly not motivated by any desire to create disruption or annoyance.
"Some practical examples of scenarios where the value of a request might be limited are where the requester;
Submits a request for information that has no obvious relevance to their stated aims.
Argues points rather than asking for new information.
Raises repeat issues which have already been fully considered by the authority.
Refuses an offer to refer the matter for independent investigation, or ignores the findings of an independent investigation.
Continues to challenge the authority for alleged wrongdoing without any cogent basis for doing so.
Is pursuing a relatively trivial or highly personalised matter of little if any benefit to the wider public"
None of these apply.
"The ICO considers it good practice to include the reasoning for the decision in the refusal notice"
They didn't.

I should be grateful if you could please conduct a S50 review.

Thank you

Doug Paulley