Department for Education
15 June 2016, Central government
The Commissioner has previously considered the decision of the Department for Education (DfE) to withhold some documents covered by requests made on 11 August 2014 for information relating to the proposal for the Independent Schools Standards (ISS) and the corresponding consultation exercise. On 21 July 2015 the Commissioner issued a decision notice under the reference FS50566201 in which he found that the DfE had correctly applied the exemptions to disclosure set out at section 35(1)(b) (ministerial communications) and sections 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of FOIA. Referencing the passage of time that had elapsed since that decision, the complainant in this case has made a further request for the withheld information. With the exception of some information which has been disclosed, the DfE considered that the requested information continued to be exempt information under the exemptions previously cited but also stated that section 36(2)(c) of FOIA applied to parts of the requested information. With respect to each of the exemptions cited, the DfE exercised the public interest test and concluded that the public interest still favoured withholding the information. The Commissioner has decided that section 35(1)(b) and, elsewhere, sections 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) are engaged but not section 36(2)(c) of FOIA. For each of the exemptions that have been found to apply, the Commissioner has determined that, in all the circumstances, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in favour of maintaining the exemptions. The Commissioner therefore requires the DfE to disclose the requested information with the exception of any information that the DfE considers should be withheld in accordance with its standard policy on the publication of personal data (see paragraph 6).