There was a story in the Guardian yesterday about a researcher and teacher who asked under the freedom of information act for details about the application forms sent in by people applying to run free schools, and the letters later sent back explaining whether or not they were successful.
This is highlighted in a post on the Local Schools Network.
Her request was turned down, and the reason given was that this “would allow opponents of free school applications to attack applications more easily and could undermine local support”.
The researcher Laura McInerny appealed via the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the body which deals with appeals when organisations refuse to release data in response to a FoI request, and the ICO decided there were strong public interest factors in the disclosure of the information.
The Department for Education still refuses to release the information and is taking the Information Commissioner and the researcher to a tribunal in an attempt to prevent the release of data requested under the FOI Act.
The Local Schools Network is concerned about how decisions are made on Free schools and says “It is essential that free schools are only opened where there is a genuine need (not “demand” from a vocal group) and the DfE exercises due diligence when it approves bids”.
The tribunal is expected to take place in the summer.
As Laura McInerny asks; “why shouldn’t the public know about any issues with the applications? It is our money paying for the schools and our children walking into them”.
Many people will be affected for many years to come by the opening of free schools, especially where existing schools may be under threat, as has been reported here in Stroud.
Some local families who fancy sending their children to a school that looks attractive, but about the foundations of which they know very little, should not be allowed to influence education in a town of this size without a proper amount of scrutiny applied to the process.