Freedom of Information
From 1 January 2005 when the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) came fully into force, there is a legal right for any person to ask a school for access to information that it holds. The FOI Act is overseen by the Information Commissioner who also has responsibility for The Data Protection Act 1998, and The Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
- The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) enables individuals to access information about themselves;
- The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) enable people to access environmental information; and
- The Freedom of Information Act enables people to access all other information and the reasoning behind decisions and policies, which do not fall under DPA or EIR.
Although FOI presumes openness, it recognises the need to protect sensitive information in certain circumstances and provides for exemptions.
The School's Obligations under the Freedom of Information Act
Schools are under a duty to provide advice and assistance to anyone requesting information. The enquirer is entitled to be told whether the school holds the information (the duty to confirm or deny) except where certain exemptions apply. A well managed records and management information system is essential to help schools to meet requests.
There are prescribed time limits for responding to requests for information. Requests should be dealt with within 20 days excluding school holidays. Willfully concealing, damaging or destroying information in order to avoid answering an enquiry is an offence.
A valid FOI request should be in writing, state the enquirer's name and correspondence address and describe the information requested.
Expressions of dissatisfaction should be handled through the school's existing complaints procedure.