Refusal to release academy documents fuels fears DfE ‘has something to hide’

The Tes reports that a call for government to mirror rules it imposes on councils to ensure openness and transparency. The government’s refusal to release vital papers about the academies programme has led to fears it might have “something to hide”.

In the past year, the Department for Education has released two sets of heavily redacted papers from headteacher board (HTB) meetings – which form the basis for decisions about millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money – under freedom of information laws.

But now DfE officials have said that even FoIs will no longer be an avenue to access full sets of HTB documents, after they this month refused a Tes request on the basis of time and cost, and said a previous release was “made in goodwill” to allow narrower requests to be submitted in the future.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the department’s decision was “a very surprising response that is likely to feed a lot of thinking that there is something to be hidden”.

A DfE spokesperson says: “Freedom of information rules are designed to ensure transparency while protecting taxpayers’ money from being wasted on unnecessarily broad requests that would take too long to carry out.

“In this instance the department has provided advice on how to amend the request so it does not waste publicly funded resources and is more likely to be released. Anyone who is unhappy with the response they receive is free to make a complaint and contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Read more Refusal to release academy documents fuels fears DfE ‘has something to hide’

What do you think? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Anonymous

    Of course there’s something to hide. Obfuscation is the order of the day when any FOI request is made about academy funding. An ideological programme with no legitimate basis.

  2. wasateacher

    Over the last 3/4 years the DfE has become much more reluctant to respond to FoI requests. This could be for at least 2 reasons. 1) That the Government’s claim that removing schools from local authority oversight is leading to major problems, a worsening of education provision and financial problems. 2) That the DfE simply does not have the capacity to know what is happening as a result of the increasing fragmentation of education.

    Either way, we are facing enormous problems and the end result is likely only to be seen after this Government is long gone.

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