A Uniform Approach for Schools Responding to FOI Requests
A recent decision from the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) (Oakwood High School (Education (School))  UKICO FS50626514) serves to remind maintained schools and academies of their responsibilities when responding to Freedom of Information (“FOI”) requests.
This case concerned a request to an Academy for information relating to the provision of school uniform. The request contained a number of questions but a key point in issue was whether the Academy should have disclosed the name of the company from which it had purchased school uniform, and the purchase orders and invoices relating to that transaction.
The ICO found the Academy at fault because:
- It had not responded to the request within the requisite timescale (and only after the applicant had referred the matter to the ICO);
- The Academy’s refusal notice was inadequate; and
- It had not contacted the company from which it had purchased school uniform to ascertain whether that company objected to the disclosure.
Key points that schools should take away from the ICO’s decision are:
- A response to an FOI request must be provided within 20 school days (or within 60 working days if that is earlier), even if refusing to provide the information.
- If refusing to provide the information, the response must state that fact. It must also specify the exemption being relied upon and why that exemption applies.
- If the school seeks to rely on the exemption that the information constitutes a trade secret or would prejudice the commercial interests of a person, it should first contact the company or person to query whether or not they would object to disclosure of the information which relates to them.
- Any response to a request must notify the applicant of their right to request an internal review. If requested, this should be completed within 20 working days.
For more information contact Laura Thompson.