Small Schools Taskforce report

Feargal Hogan made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Education

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Department for Education.

Dear Department for Education,

Please can I have a copy of the Small Schools Taskforce report

Yours faithfully,

Feargal Hogan

Department for Education

Dear Mr Hogan

I refer to your request for information, which was received on 10 July. You requested a copy of the Small Schools Taskforce report. I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).

The Department holds the information you requested, however, it is our view that the exemption under Section 36(2) (c) of the Act applies to the information in question. Section 36(2) (c) provides for information to be exempt from disclosure where disclosure would prejudice, or be likely to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs. This exemption requires a public interest test to be carried out, to determine whether the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in its release.

There will be a general public interest in disclosing information that could inform the process of government policy formulation. In this particular case, release of the report would provide small schools with a snapshot of the challenges that similar size schools have faced in implementing universal infant free school meals(UIFSM) along with case study examples of how these challenges can be overcome – although the findings are based on a very small sample of schools.

On the other hand, the majority of the draft report’s findings are already in the public domain following the publication of the toolkit for small schools which is available at http://www.thegreatschoollunch.co.uk/med.... The toolkit includes practical guidance and links to case studies which are helpful to small schools in considering options for the delivery of UIFSM.

On balance, the Department has decided that the public interest lies in withholding the information. The majority of the findings from the draft report are already in the public domain and releasing this information would not substantively add to that knowledge but would still pose a risk of prejudice. It would undermine the effective conduct of public affairs if the Department was obliged to publish documents which it had been decided were not strongly evidence based enough to warrant publication.

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.

Your sincerely

Gill Walden
Healthy Pupil Unit

Dear Department for Education,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Education's handling of my FOI request 'Small Schools Taskforce report'.

Given that most of the information is already in the public domain, as your response indicated, the level of prejudice you refer to would need to be extremely high to outweigh the public interest in disclosure as per Section 36(2) (c) .

There is a not insignificant cost in producing this report, considering it, and acting on it, all of which is funded by the taxpayer. The taxpayer should have access to what s/he pays for.

It is also a given that the entire school food program only affects one sixth of a child's nutritional intake, so the public needs to understand if the resources it provides to government are been well allocated.

The public interest demands that this report is published in full.

Please conduct an internal review of your refusal and provide a copy of the report to the public who have paid for it in the first place.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...

Yours faithfully,

Feargal Hogan

Department for Education

Dear Mr Hogan

I refer to your request for an internal review which was received on 8 August 2016. You requested an internal review of our response to your request (FOI: 2016-0033472), received on 10 July 2016, for a copy of the small school task force report into Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) in small schools.

The Department responded on 8 August 2016 confirming that this information was to be withheld under section 36(2)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Department has now completed its internal review process and has carried out a thorough review of the case, which I chaired, as a senior officer who was not involved with the original request. The Department has decided to uphold the original decision, for the same reasons set out in the letter of 8 August.

It is our view that the release of the draft report would not provide any extra help to small schools in delivering UIFSM, further to what is already included in the toolkit for small schools. Furthermore, as the review team only had access to a very small number of schools to undertake their research, equating to approximately 1% of small schools across England, we do not believe that the evidence base for the draft recommendations is representative of the situation of the majority of small schools in England. We have carried out a public interest test, and have balanced the arguments for releasing the report against how robust the evidence is in this report, the possibility of misleading small schools and of undermining the overall UIFSM policy. In this instance, the public interest falls in favour of the maintenance of the exemption under section 36(2)(c).

If you are unhappy with this decision, you have the right to appeal directly to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

The Case Reception Unit
Customer Service Team
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Further information about the Information Commissioner’s complaints procedure can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui....

Yours sincerely

Sophie Taylor
Deputy Director
Independent Education, Safeguarding in Schools and Counter Extremism Group<http://portal/Search/Pages/peopleresults...>