Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Academy Schools and FOI

A reader of the blog has sent me a copy of a letter he received from his MP about Academy schools not being covered by the FOIA.

The letter included a response from the DCA Minister Baroness Ashdown (Read the letter from Baroness Ashton) that suggests that Academy Schools cannot be added by ammending Schedule 1 using the powers under S4(1)of the FOIA as academies do not satisfy this condition of S4:

3) The second condition is-

(a) in the case of a body, that the body is wholly or partly constituted by appointment made by the Crown, by a Minister of the Crown, by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales, or
(b) in the case of an office, that appointments to the office are made by the Crown, by a Minister of the Crown, by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales.

As this issue has not come up before we cannot be sure what is meant by "partly constituted by appointment" but according to the DFES website the running of these schools certainly has direct involvement with officials from the DFES which could satify the "by a governmeny department" part:

"Once the Secretary of State has given approval for an Academy, an Academy Trust is formed which will be responsible for the building and running of the Academy and has control over the land and other assets. The Trust is a charitable company. Members of this Company (Trust) include the sponsor, the chair of the governing body, other members and a representative of the Secretary of State. The Members of the Trust have limited liability up to L10 in the event of financial difficulty. They delegate the management of the school to the governors (Directors)."

The letter does also state they could be added under section 5 as a private organisation providing functions of a public nature. (None have been added this way so far). No timetable is offered for this though. It should also be added that the Lord Chancellor did make reference to the fact they were considering extending coverage in his speech to the British Academy back in February:

"We are looking right now at how exactly we will do this. The sort of private bodies we're likely to extend to are privately run prisons and school academies - which should be subject to the same principles of openness and transparency that applies to the thousands of other public authorities covered by FOI. But we will ensure that - where we extend the scope - it does not have a disproportionate impact on the ability of those bodies to carry out their functions. We need to get the balance right."

Thanks to David for sending this.

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