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How to Deal with Freedom of Information Requests in Schools.

Written on 23 May, 2024

What is a Freedom of Information Request?

A Freedom of Information (FOI) Request is a request made by any member of the public for information held by public authorities or publicly owned companies. Therefore, schools fall under this Act.

  1. Under the Act public authorities are obliged to publicly publish certain information about their activities in a publication scheme. Every organisation is required to have a publication scheme which sets out what information the public authority hold and if that information is public where it can be found.
  2. Under the Act public authorities must provide information to anyone making a written request.

This Act does not give people access to their own personal data.

Who can make a Freedom of Information Request?

Anyone can make a valid freedom of information request – they do not have to be UK citizens, or resident in the UK.

Freedom of information requests can also be made by organisations, for example a newspaper, a campaign group, or a company.

If you are concerned about the validity of a request see the ICO guidance (What makes a valid request? | ICO) and talk to your DPO. However, it is likely that any request in writing will be valid.

Do we have to respond to every Freedom of Information Request?

Yes, under the Act you must release the information unless there is good reason not to.

There are two scenarios where you may not have to answer an FOI, that is if you have a right to refuse the request or an exemption applies.

Your Data Protection Officer will help you decide if either of these options apply.

What if I don’t know the answer?

You only have to disclose information you hold in a reportable format, you do not need to create information merely to respond to the request. If you do not hold recorded information, you do not have to respond to that question.

When do we have to respond by?

Under the FOI Act 2000, you must respond to requests for information within 20 working days, counting the first working day after the request is received as the first day. The time allowed for complying with a request starts when your organisation receives it, not when it reaches the relevant member of staff.

Section 1 (3) of the Act states that if you require clarification from the requester the time does not start until you receive the extra information you required to complete the request.

How do we respond to a Freedom of Information Request?

Here at Education Data Hub, we provide schools with a ‘How to Guide’ for dealing with FOIs.

Following this guide, the first step is to log the request. It is good practice to keep a log of all requests you have received, the relevant dates and your response, to produce an audit trail for your school.

Once the school have logged the FOI request, they will receive correspondence from us, as their data protection officer, with advice on how to deal with the request. This will contain, a template acknowledgement letter and a response template for your answer.

How to Deal with Freedom of Information Requests in Schools. 1

If you require any assistance with dealing with Freedom of Information Requests, or any other Information Requests, please get in touch at [email protected]