Request for correspondence between the DfE and the British Computer Society and/or Royal Academy of Engineering

The request was refused by Department for Education.

Dear Department for Education,

Please supply me with copies of all correspondence sent and received between the Department for Education and the British Computer Society (known as BCS) and/or the Royal Academy of Engineering in relation to the preparation of the Draft Programmes of Study for ICT from 1st January 2012 to 1st March 2013.

In order to reduce costs these can be sent as electronic files.

Yours faithfully,

Gareth Davies

Department for Education

Dear Mr Davies

Thank you for your recent enquiry. 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 reference number 2013/0015764.

Thank you

Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Davies,


Thank you for your request of 5 March February under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (“the Act”) in which you ask for sight of the
correspondence between the Department, the British Computer Society (BCS)
and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) relating to the draft
National Curriculum programmes of study for ICT (which it is proposed will
be renamed as computing).


As you will be aware, the Department invited BCS and RAEng to facilitate
the sector-led development of draft programmes of study for ICT/computing.
 This was in keeping with the Government’s commitment to enabling those
who are best placed to transform technology-related education in schools
to do so.  As was agreed with the Department, BCS and RAEng convened a
wide group of sector stakeholders who developed draft programmes of study
for Key Stages 1-4 which were submitted to the Department at the end of
November as expert advice.  These were subsequently published by BCS and
RAEng on the BCS website (at
[1] along with
details of who was involved in the development process.  BCS and RAEng
have also clarified on the BCS website that following submission of the
draft programmes of study, they were invited by the Department to advise
on how to amplify the computer science component of the proposed computing
curriculum, in line with Ministers’ steers.  Representatives of BCS and
RAEng worked with Department officials to amend the draft, which was
published for public consultation on 7^th February.


There has been ongoing correspondence between the Department and BCS and
RAEng about the process of developing the ICT/computing programmes of
study and their content.  As the purpose of these exchanges was solely
related to the development of government policy, we consider that the
correspondence should be withheld under section 35 of the Act, which
covers information which relates to the formulation or development of
government policy.  This provision allows for information to be withheld
in certain instances, including where Ministers and officials need to
consider various options at an early stage of policy formulation away from
the public gaze.  The purpose of this exemption is to allow for
suggestions to be made and considered, which might not be made if options
were to be exposed to the public.


The exemption in section 35 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.
 In balancing the public interest, the Department has taken into account
that 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. 


Conversely, it is in the public interest that the formulation of
government policy and government decision-making can proceed in the
self-contained space needed to ensure that it is done well.  Good
government depends on good decision-making and this needs to be based on
the best advice available and a full consideration of the options. 
Without protecting the thinking space and the ability for Ministers and
senior officials to receive free and frank advice, there is likely to be a
corrosive effect on the conduct of good government, with a risk that
decision-making will become poorer and will be recorded inadequately.


In this particular case, the development of the draft programmes of study
was an ongoing process over a period of several months, with drafts being
refined to reflect discussion with both subject experts and Ministers.  We
believe that there would have been less free and frank discussion of
options if it had been anticipated that the record of these discussions
would be published.  In addition, the draft programmes of study have now
been published in draft for full public consultation, meaning that the
next stage of development before the new curriculum is finalised will be
more open.  On balance it is therefore the Department's view that the
public interest in non-disclosure outweighs the public interest in


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.



Kind regards,



Phil Bannister


National Curriculum Review Division

Department for Education

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