Processing and summarising Home Education consultation responses.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Sir or Madam

1] Please provide copies of any instructions or advice issued to DCSF staff on how to process consultation responses. In particular, please supply any special instructions issued with regard to the unprecedented number of responses to the consultation on aspects of the Badman report.

2] Also, please provide copies of the reports, advice and/or summaries that were produced as a result of considering the consultation responses.

3] Lastly, please supply copies of any correspondence between officials and/or elected politicians that arose in response to the material mentioned in points one and two.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Ian Appleby

Department for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Dr Appleby

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 2009/0104680

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 Dr Appleby,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 11 December. I am
dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ("the Act"). You
requested:

1] Please provide copies of any instructions or advice issued to
DCSF staff on how to process consultation responses. In particular,
please supply any special instructions issued with regard to the
unprecedented number of responses to the consultation on aspects of
the Badman report.

I am sorry not yet to be able to send a response to this question. I am, however,
dealing with this request and hope to be able to forward a full reply by 22 January.

2] Also, please provide copies of the reports, advice and/or
summaries that were produced as a result of considering the
consultation responses.

The Department's response to the "Home Education: registration and monitoring
proposals" public consultation was published on 11 January. It can be found on the
Department's Consultation website at:

[1]http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/ind...
and then searching under `home education'.

3] Lastly, please supply copies of any correspondence between
officials and/or elected politicians that arose in response to the
material mentioned in points one and two.

This could potentially involve a lot of information and the possibility of being
outside the cost threshold for response. If you are able to be more specific about
the information you are requesting we can consider further.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote
the reference number above in any future communications.

Again, please accept my apologies for the delay in forwarding a full response.

Yours sincerely,

Josephine Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team
[email address]
[2]www.dcsf.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

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References

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1. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/ind...
2. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/

Dear Mrs Bell,

Thank you for your response. I look forward to receiving the information requested under point 1 as promised.

With reference to point 2, I am aware that the final response was published on January 11. It is clear that such a response would be published at some stage, and I must observe that I believe an unduly narrow interpretation of this point has been made in referring me to this published response. My request in fact referred to the internal material that was produced during the drafting of that response: I hope to gain insight in to how the final draft of the response took shape, on the one hand, in light of the reports produced by those reading the consultation responses, and on the other hand in light of guidance and feedback from DCSF officials and elected politicians. I would be grateful if you would reconsider my second point in light of my comments here.

There will surely have been a series of drafts and revisions, with comments, before the final draft was published, and it is these that interest me most under my point 3. In addition, was any guidance given to the authors of the response by either DCSF management or elected politicians? If so, I request sight of same. I trust that this clarification will help you in considering how to respond to point 3 of my request.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Ian Appleby

Department for Children, Schools and Families

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Appleby

Further documents attached.

Yours sincerely

Jo Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

Jo Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team
Ext 62701 (01325 392701)

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Department for Children, Schools and Families

1 Attachment

Dear Dr Appleby

Copy of the Consultation Toolkit attached. Please let me know if you have
any problems opening this document. Further documents to follow.

Yours sincerely

Jo Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

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Department for Children, Schools and Families

5 Attachments

Dear Dr Appleby

I am writing further to my email dated 13 January about your request of 11
December, which is being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (*the Act*). You requested:

1] Please provide copies of any instructions or advice issued to
DCSF staff on how to process consultation responses. In particular,
please supply any special instructions issued with regard to the
unprecedented number of responses to the consultation on aspects of
the Badman report.

Copies of the documents you have requested are attached (ie agenda,
minutes of two meetings contained within emails dated 3 June 2009 and 25
June 2009; Government Code of Practice; and the final contract of
responsibilities between the policy team and the Consultation Unit). A
copy of the Consultation Toolkit is being sent by separate email because
of the number of attachments to this response. Names and contact details
of officials have been redacted under section 40 of the Act (personal
information).

It may help if I explain that the consultation responses were initially
processed and considered by colleagues on the DCSF Consultation Unit
before being forwarded to the policy team for further action. Staff on
the Consultation Unit have all been trained on how to analyse responses to
consultations, they are members of the Consultation Institute and abide by
the BERR Consultation Code of Practice.

The team provides an unbiased consultation service to the Department as a
whole. They analyse exactly what is being raised by all the respondents,
and the report produced by them was not weighted towards any particular
groups. A separate summary was also provided for policy team
information using just the local authority (LA) key issues [annexes A (ii)
and Annex C]. This was for ease of information/identification of LA
responses within the large number of home educator responses.

It was discussed between the policy and the consultation team at both
meetings, 3 and 25 June, though not minuted, that if a large number of
responses were received, the consultation team would draft in other fully
trained members from the unit, and if necessary train colleagues from PCU
(Public Communications Unit) on how to undertake the analysis. This did
happen, and all the consultation unit advisors were used to analyse, along
with several colleagues from PCU who were fully trained in the use of the
framework for analysis.

2] Also, please provide copies of the reports, advice and/or
summaries that were produced as a result of considering the
consultation responses.

A copy of the information which can be disclosed is being sent by separate
emails. They are * the report published by the consultation unit for
the policy team including Annexes A(i) and A(ii), and Annex C. Please
note, the report and annexes forwarded to the policy team were found to be
missing 3 responses (one LA and two respondents described as *other*).
The three responses were taken into consideration in the DCSF*s response
published on 11 January.

The consultation unit produced two further reports *

Book 3, an excel document, lists the contact details of all respondents to
the consultation. The Department is withholding this information under
section 40 of the Act. The absolute exemption at section 40 is engaged
because some of information requested constitutes personal data,
disclosure of which would contravene the data protection principles.

Annex B is a list of all the comments made by the respondents to the
consultation. The Department is withholding this information because it
estimates that the cost of releasing the information would exceed the cost
threshold applicable to central Government. This is £600 and represents
the estimated cost of one person spending 3½ working days. Under section
12 of the Act the Department is therefore not obliged to comply with your
request and will not be processing it further. In considering release, we
would have to look at all the comments contained in the 107 page document,
redacting the name of the respondent assigned to each comment under
section 40 (personal data). The cost threshold would relate to your
overall request for information.

The information that has been supplied to you is protected by the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Any documents produced by
government officials will be covered by Crown Copyright. You are free to
use the information for your own purposes, including any non-commercial
research you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other
reuse, for example commercial publication, would require the permission of
the copyright holder and is regulated by the Reuse of Public Sector
Information Regulations 2005. You can find details on the arrangements
for re-using Crown Copyright at:

Office of Public Sector Information
Information Policy Team
Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 4DU

Email: [1][email address]

3] Lastly, please supply copies of any correspondence between
officials and/or elected politicians that arose in response to the
material mentioned in points one and two.

Thank you for the further clarification you provided in your email of 14
January. I am looking into this further and will contact you again as
soon as possible.

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

Jo Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

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

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
mailto:[email address]

Department for Children, Schools and Families

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Appleby

Further documents attached.

Yours sincerely

Jo Bell (Mrs)
Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

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

Fiona Nicholson left an annotation ()

Thanks for this. We posted some thoughts here:

http://www.freedomforchildrentogrow.org/...

At first sight, there appear to be some discrepancies.
Annex A ii.pdf gives a breakdown of responses from local authorities in table form. Annex C.pdf provides a narrative overview of local authority responses. The official DCSF consultation report glosses over a number of issues raised in Annex A.ii.pdf particularly where the question was ambiguous or where it covered a number of areas. The breakdown of responses in Annex A ii.pdf reveal substantial reservations over many aspects of the Government's proposals.
It should also be noted that over 10 local authorities are consistently recorded as not being in agreement with the Government's proposals at all and almost half of all local authorities did not even submit a response to the consultation. It is therefore difficult to reconcile these facts with statements from the Department that the majority of local authorities are in agreement with the Government. To take one example, in Annex A ii.pdf 36 out of 152 local authorities are recorded as saying that school records would provide a useful benchmark to assess home education. The narrative overview in Annex C.pdf describes this as "most local authorities".

Fiona Nicholson, Education Otherwise

Department for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Dr Appleby,
I am writing further to my email dated 22 January about your remaining
request, namely -

3] Lastly, please supply copies of any correspondence between

officials and/or elected politicians that arose in response to the

material mentioned in points one and two.

The Department has considered your request under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 ("the Act"). Having carefully considered your
request and your further clarification of 14 January, I can confirm that
the Department holds information within scope of your request but it is
being withheld under section 36 of the Act.

Section 36 is engaged because the disclosure of the information would be
likely to, prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs and inhibit
the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views for the
purposes of deliberation. As required under the Act, the opinion of the
Department's `qualified person' (a Minister) has been obtained to the
effect that the exemption is engaged.

The Department considers that section 36 is engaged in respect of the
whole of the information you have requested under Question 3. This
exemption requires public interest balancing tests and we have considered
the arguments for and against release and in our view the balance of
public interest falls in favour of withholding this information.

The Department recognises that there is a high public interest in holding
public authorities accountable for their performance, and there are strong
arguments that scrutiny of public sector performance drives up standards.
It also recognises that rather than inhibiting the frank provision of
advice, disclosure may under certain circumstances enhance the quality of
advice, and the Department also takes the view that an informed public
debate has the potential to influence policy and perhaps to result in the
reprioritisation of resources.

Conversely, the paramount public interest lies in ensuring that the
consultation process is an effective method of collecting views and
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 in order freely and
frankly to provide advice, information and exchange views.

In particular the Department considered that:

. The publication of this information in whole or in part is likely
to be seen as a precedent in other cases, and this is likely seriously to
inhibit the free and frank provision of advice to Ministers.

. Ministers and those advising them 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 response, 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.

Having carried out the public interest balancing test the Department takes
the view that it is not in the public interest for any of the information
you have requested under Question 3 to be released.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote our reference number in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to me within two calendar months of the date of this
letter.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the
ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our complaints/review
procedure.
Yours sincerely,

Josephine Bell (Mrs)

Independent Schools Partnerships and Strategy Team
[email address]
[1]www.dcsf.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2009/0104680.

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

References

Visible links
1. http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/

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