DfE will decide whether to publish complaints about brokers - it thinks they are exempt from disclosure

Janet Downs's picture
Six formal complaints about academy brokers have been received by the Department for Education (DfE), said schools minister, Elizabeth Truss, on 25 April 2103.

I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request on 4 June requesting the publication of the complaints and a list of all brokers employed by the DfE since May 2010.

The DfE has refused to publish this information. It claims it is exempt under Section 36(2) (c) of the Freedom of Information Act. Disclosure “would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.”

The behaviour of academy brokers has been discussed in Parliament. MPs have received complaints about their tactics which has been described as being from the Vito Corleone textbook. Yet the DfE is hiding behind the FoI Act to refuse to release details of formal complaints about brokers.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was asked at Education Questions yesterday if brokers were covered by the civil service code. This was the answer:

“They are not bound by the civil service code, but they do have to have regard to the civil service code.”

The DfE defines “have regard to” as follows:

“Where a recipient has an obligation to ‘have regard to’ guidance they should exercise the powers and duties which are the subject of the guidance in the way it says they should, unless they have a good reason not to.”

Complaints to MPs and the six unreleased formal objections would suggest that brokers are not always acting with “regard” to the code. But we can’t be told which brokers have been acting without “regard” because it might “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

It’s to be hoped that the DfE has properly investigated the complaints and taken any necessary action.

But it appears we can’t be told what these complaints are.

UPDATE 26 June 2013 18.32

Having re-read the Freedom of Information request more carefully, I see that the DfE is going to consider whether there is a public interest in disclosure although it believes an exemption exists (as I said above) .  They should have made a decision by 11 July 2013.  Apologies for my hasty reading of the response.  My thread gave the impression that the DfE has point blank refused.

The original title for this thread was "DfE refuses to publish formal complaints about academy brokers".  This has been changed in the light of the update.



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