Dear Department for Education,
Could you please release the free school proposal, business case, and plan for the Maharishi School, Lancashire.
I would also like all material used in the department's assessments of the proposal, business case, and plan to be released along with any final report/recommendation on the proposal for the school to become a free school.
Dear Mr Taylor
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
Central Allocation Team
Public Communications Team
Tel: 0370 0002288
Dear Mr Taylor,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request which was received on 17 January.
“Could you please release the free school proposal, business case, and plan for the Maharishi School,
I would also like all material used in the department's assessments of the proposal, business case, and
plan to be released along with any final report/recommendation on the proposal for the school to
become a free school.”
I have interprted your request to include the business case and plan, the original assessment template
completed and advice to Ministers on whether to approve the business case and plan and to enter into a
I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”). The Department
does hold the information you requested but that information is being witheld because it is exempt from
disclosure under sections 36, 40, 43 and 21 of the Act.
Section 36(2)(b)(i) and (2)(c) of the Act exempts from disclosure information which, in the reasonable
opinion of a qualified person (a Minister in the case of Government Departments), would be likely to
inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and would be likely otherwise to prejudice the effective
conduct of public affairs. A Minister has decided that, in his reasonable opinion, disclosure of the
information you requested would be likely to have this effect.
Section 36 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:
* There is a general public interest in disclosure because of the desirability of more open and
transparent government and of promoting public accountability.
* However, it is also in the public interest that officials can provide free and frank advice to
Ministers about whether a proposed Free School should be approved to enable them to make sound and
well informed decisions. It is on this basis that I am withholding submission to Ministers relating
to the business case and plan and funding agreement.
* Releasing approved applications and / or business cases and plans would be likely to encourage
applicants to put forward similar applications or copy sections from approved applications /
business cases and plans. This would potentially stifle innovation and undermines a fundamental
part of our assessment of a group’s capacity and capability – the ability to put together a coherent
and original bid.
* Releasing approved applications / business cases and plans might encourage applicants to submit bids
that they thought would be successful rather than submitting a bid that best reflected the needs of
the local community.
* It would be misleading to publish the original Maharishi application and / or business case and plan
as elements of both of these documents are now out of date as the group significantly developed
their plans further to both their original application and business case and plan prior to opening
as a Free School in September 2011.
* Business cases were in most cases produced after an iterative process. Many were approved with
conditions and they are all out of date by virtue of the further development that occurred in the
pre-opening stage. It would therefore be misleading to publish them.
* It would be misleading to publish the original Maharishi assessment template as the document is now
out of date and publishing the assessment document may mislead applicants as to what is required
within an application.
The arguments for and against release have been considered and it has been decided that the balance of
public interest falls in favour of the maintenance of this exemption in relation to the information
Some of the information contained in the proposal form and business case, including the personal details
of proposers and governors, is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the Act, which provides for
personal data to be exempt where its disclosure otherwise than under the Act would contravene any of the
data protection principles under the Data Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and
requires no public interest consideration.
The financial information held within the scope of your request is being exempted under section 43(2),
which provides for information to be exempt because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice
the commercial interests of any person.
Section 43 of the Act is also a qualified exemption which means that a public interest test needs to be
carried out, and in doing so the following factors have been taken into consideration:
* There is a public interest in the transparency of the accountability of public funds to ensure that
public money is being used effectively, and that departments are getting value for money when
purchasing goods and services.
* However, disclosure of the information requested would be likely to prejudice the commercial
interests of the third parties.
* It is clearly in the public interest to ensure the Department receives sufficient information before
entering into financial arrangements. Disclosure of the requested information would make it less
likely that organisations or individuals would provide such information to the Department in the
* It would be misleading to publish the financial information in the original Maharishi proposal as
the figures within that document were only estimates and are now out of date as the group refined
them as part of developing their overall plans between approval and opening in September 2011.
The arguments for and against release have been considered and it is our view that the balance of public
interest falls in favour of the maintenance of this exemption in relation to certain information
Under section 21 of the Act, we do not need to provide information that is reasonably accessible to you.
The Funding Agreement for Maharishi school has now been published on the Department’s website at
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference
number above in any future communications.
Finally, I should let you know that if you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled you
should make a complaint in writing within two calendar months of the date of this letter. Your
complaint will be considered by an independent review panel, not involved in the original consideration
of your request. If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint you may then contact the
Information Commissioner’s Office.
Free Schools Group
Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0002827.
Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.