NASWE submission to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England

The request was refused by Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please provide me with a copy of the submision made by the NASWE to Graham Badman's review into Elective Home Education in England.

Yours faithfully,

Louise Thorn

Department for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Louise

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
2009/0066648.

Thank you.

Central Allocation Team

Public Communications Team

Tel: 0870 0002288
www.dcsf.gov.uk

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Department for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Ms Thorn

Thank you for your request dated 23 July 2009 asking for information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

I should like to apologise for the delay in replying. The Department is
aware that it will miss the statutory deadline for reply and is in breach
of its obligations under the Act. I very much regret this - the
Department should meet its obligations under the Act.

While I appreciate that it is in no way a justification I should like to
explain that the Department makes every effort to meet deadlines, but the
delay in responding in this case has been due to the unusual volume of
requests the Department has received in recent months. The Information
Commissioner has been informed of the situation.

A reply will be sent as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Sue Thomson

Independent Schools

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for informing me of the reason for the delay in responding, I look forward to hearing from you again on this matter very soon.

Yours faithfully,

L Thorn

Department for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Ms Thorn,
FOI request 2009/0066648

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 23 July
2009. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (the Act).

Before answering your request I should like to apologise for the delay in
replying. The Department is aware that it has missed the statutory
deadline for reply and is in breach of its obligations under the Act. I
very much regret this - the Department should meet its obligations under
the Act. While I appreciate that it is in no way a justification I should
like to explain that the Department makes every effort to meet deadlines,
but the delay in responding in this case has been due to the unusual
volume of requests the Department has received in recent months.
The Information Commissioner has been informed of the situation.

You requested:

Please provide me with a copy of the submision made by the NASWE to
Graham Badman's review into Elective Home Education in England.

The information is being withheld because the qualified exemptions at
sections 35 (policy formulation and development) and 38 (health and
safety) of the Act are engaged . The Department has therefore carried out
public interest tests in relation to the exemptions at both sections 35
and 38. The results are below. The Department has decided that the public
interest lies in withholding the information:

Section 35(1)

Section 35(1) of the Act applies specifically to information held by
government departments. It provides that information is exempt if it
`relates to:

(a) the formulation or development of government policy.'

The exemption in section 35(1)(a) is subject to the public interest test
which means that when the exemption is engaged it is necessary to consider
whether in all the circumstances of the case the public interest in
withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

Taken as a whole the considerations for disclosure add up to an argument
that more openness about the process may lead to better quality policy
formulation and development, greater accountability, an improved standard
of public debate, and improved trust. While in this instance there was
opportunity for key organisations and individuals to input views, greater
openness about the process may more generally lead to a climate in which
policy is not seen as a narrow preserve of Ministers, officials
and external advisers, but one in which there is greater engagement by the
public.

Conversely the case for withholding rests principally in the nature of the
activity involved in policy making about highly sensitive and emotive
issues. Ministers and those advising them, including independent experts
and reviewers, need to have the necessary confidence and space to carry
out a difficult task effectively, while ultimately being able to ensure,
through the mechanism of publication of a final report, that generic
lessons can be identified and learned, that thoroughly-considered policy
recommendations can be made, and that public interest and accountability
are appropriately served. This is important in all policy arenas where the
disclosure of provisional or tentative advice, or information which might
be interpreted to reveal reservations could have a distracting, disruptive
or otherwise detrimental effect on the continuing development of policies
and their delivery. It is particularly important to avoid such effects
where there could be adverse impact on the health and safety of
individuals.

Having taken careful account of the arguments for both release and for
withholding, the Department takes the view that it is not in the public
interest for any of the responses to the review of elective home education
to be released. Nor does it consider that any component parts of them
should be released. While there are general arguments for greater openness
and accountability in the policy making process, one of the purposes of
the report already published in this specific case is precisely to provide
a balanced and coherent overview of all the issues without disclosing any
sensitive information, and to satisfy the need for public accountability.
The paramount public interest lies in ensuring that the independent report
process is an effective method of identifying the lessons that need to be
learnt as swiftly as possible, and that sound policy and implementation
results; and this can only be done when participating advisers, experts,
officials and Ministers have the necessary space and assurance of
confidentiality. This is a continuing area of policy development in a
highly sensitive area and a release of the submissions is highly likely to
have a negative effect on the development and delivery of key policies
designed to safeguard children and improve educational provision.

Section 38(1) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure under
the Act would, or would be likely, to

(a) endanger the physical or mental health of any individual; or

(b) endanger the safety of any individual.

This exemption is subject to the public interest test which means that
even where prejudice or likely prejudice can be demonstrated, it is still
necessary to consider whether in all the circumstances of the case the
public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public
interest in disclosure. This exemption covers events that could reasonably
be expected but do not have to be definitely foreseeable.

The case for disclosure of information protected by this exemption rests
mainly on the desirability of greater openness for the purposes of
increasing public understanding and trust, and on encouraging the greater
accountability of professionals.

Conversely, it is likely that a deterrent effect would apply to
participation in, and co-operation with, review processes in the future,
leading to increased risk to vulnerable children. It is also reasonable to
expect, especially in the climate of vilification and harassment
surrounding the review that authors of responses would be subjected to
similar treatment. Such action could never be justified. The most
effective precaution which could be taken to prevent anticipated danger to
individuals lies in not disclosing information which could put them at
risk.

Taking all these factors into account the Department takes the view that
it is not in the public interest for the submissions to be released in
whole or in part. The purpose of the review report already published is
to provide a balanced and coherent overview without disclosing any
sensitive information, and this includes information which would put at
risk, or greater risk, the health and safety of individuals.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference numbers 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,

Jill Clark
Independent Schools
[email address]
[1]www.dcsf.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0066648.

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

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