Code of Practice on Public Access to Information

 

Part 1: Code of Practice on Public Access to Information

1. Purpose

2. Status of this Code

3. The Freedom of Information Act 2000

4. Key features of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

5. The Information Commissioner’s Office

6. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004

7. Key principles of Builth Wells High School’s approach to openness

8. Review of the Code of Practice on Public Access to Information

Part 2: Requests for information

1. Providing advice and assistance

2. Making a request for information

Part 3: Explaining the principles

1. Maximising openness

2. Presentation of business

3. Publication scheme

4. Providing a prompt and comprehensive response

5. Providing a right of complaint

6. Charging for information

7. Protecting privacy

8. Ensuring equality of treatment

Appendices

Appendix 1 – Freedom of Information Act – Absolute exemptions

Appendix 2 - Freedom of Information Act – Qualified exemptions

 

Part1: Code of Practice on Public Access to Information

 

1.           Purpose
This Code of Practice sets out the principles which underpin Builth Wells High School’s approach to the promotion of open government and reinforces its commitment to openness.

2.           Status of this Code
This Code is not a legal document and it does not confer rights or override any legal or statutory provisions which either require or prevent the disclosure of information.

The Code applies to information held by the School. Contracts with private companies entered into by the School include terms relating to the disclosure of information.

Throughout this Code, references to the School are references to Builth Wells High School.

3.           The Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Code takes into account the key features of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act), including the categories of exempt information specified within this legislation.

4.      Key features of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Act provides a general right of access to recorded information held by the School and places two general duties on the School:

·         To confirm or deny that it holds the information requested and;

·         If it does hold the information to give the person requesting it access to it.

The Act also:

·         Provides statutory time limits for complying with a request for information

·         Requires the School to provide advice and assistance to people seeking information

·         Requires the School to state the basis for the refusal of a request for information and to provide advice on how to complain in those circumstances

These duties are subject to exemptions which are set out in Appendix 1 and 2.

Whilst some of these exemptions are absolute, others are qualified, which means that the School must apply what is known as the public interest test before deciding whether to withhold or release the information. The School must assess whether in all the circumstances, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

In doing so, the School must make a distinction between what is genuinely in the public interest and what may merely be of interest to the public.

The Act provides that apart from the exemptions referred to above, the School may also refuse to confirm or deny whether it holds information and/or give access to it where:

·         To do so would exceed the specified cost limit

·         A fee is required and has not been paid

·         Requests are vexatious or repeated or where substantially similar requests are received from the same person

·         The applicant has not provided sufficient detail to identify the information required

The School is also required to adopt, implement, maintain and regularly review a publication scheme which commits the School to publish certain classes of information routinely, without the need to make a request to access it. The scheme must specify:-

·

·         The classes of information which the School publishes as part of its normal business activities

·         How the information can be obtained

·         Whether the information is available free of charge or on payment

5.      The Information Commissioner’s Office
The Information Commissioner’s Office is the independent School set up to promote access to official information. Its duties include the promotion of the observance of the requirements of the Act, the promotion of good practice and the investigation of complaints about a School’s failure to comply with the requirements of the Act. Upon investigating a complaint, the Information Commissioner may compel a School to disclose information if it is considered that it was incorrectly withheld.

6.      The Environmental Information Regulations 2004
Where recorded information is requested which is defined as ‘environmental information’, then the request will be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations (the Regulations), rather than the Act.

The Regulations provide a general right to access information which falls within the definition of environmental information. This definition encompasses information on:

·         The state of the elements of the environment, such as air, atmosphere, water and land, and the interaction between these elements

·         Factors affecting or likely to affect these elements, such as emissions, noise, radiation and waste

·         Measures and activities that affect or may affect these elements and factors

·         Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation

·         Cost-benefit and other economic analyses used in the measures and activities referred to above

·         The state of human health & safety where this is affected by elements of the environment

There are two key differences between the Regulations and the Act:

·         Requests may be made verbally

·         The circumstances in which requests can be refused are more limited

The Regulations contain a presumption in favour of disclosure and like the Act, if the School refuses to provide any information it holds, it is required to state in writing its reasons for doing so, applying one of the exceptions to the duty to disclose information. These exceptions are set out in Appendix 3.

7.      Key principles of the School’s approach to openness
Notwithstanding the requirements of the Act and the Regulations, the School is committed to the following principles, which are explained in more detail in Part 3:

·         Maximising openness in the way it conducts its business

·         Presenting information in clear language in line with its language scheme and taking account of different needs

·         Making extensive use of the School’s website  http://www.builth-hs.powys.sch.uk/  as a means of publishing information

·         Providing prompt and comprehensive responses to requests for information;

·         Providing a right of complaint where a member of the public is not satisfied with the response received

·         Providing information free of charge where possible and clear advice about charges and when they apply

·         Respecting personal privacy, commercial confidentiality, the duty of confidence and all laws governing the release of information

8.      Review of the Code of Practice on Public Access to Information
This Code will be kept under review to ensure that the School meets statutory requirements and any codes of practice made under the Act.

 

 

Part 2: Requests for information (FOI requests)

 

1.      Providing advice and assistance

The School will as far as is reasonable and possible provide applicants and potential applicants with advice and assistance in relation to their requests for information.

Anyone requiring advice in respect of access to information should contact the Head teacher using the contact details provided below.

2.      Making a request for information

Requests for Information must be in writing and can be made:

  • By post, to the following address:

The Head teacher

Builth Wells High School
College Road
Builth Wells
Powys
LD2 3BW

  • By email

office@builth-hs.powys.sch.uk

  • Or by using the online form

http://www.builth-hs.powys.sch.uk/contact/  

The exceptions to this requirement are requests under the Environmental Information Regulations, which may be made verbally and the Head teacher will record the details using a Verbal Request Form

Requests for information must:-

  • Include a postal or email address to which the reply is to be sent
  • Give sufficient detail for officers to identify what information is required – where a request does not contain enough detail for officers to decide what information the applicant wants clarification can be asked for

Where a person is unable to put his or her request in writing, the School will ensure that appropriate assistance is given to enable a request for information to be made. Depending on the circumstances, this will include:

  • Advising them that another person or agency (such as a Citizens Advice Bureau) may be able to assist them with the request, or make the request on their behalf
  • In exceptional circumstances, taking a note of the requested information, by telephone or in person, and providing the note to the requester for confirmation. In such cases, once verified by the requester and returned to the School, the note will constitute a written request for information and the statutory time limit for reply will begin once the confirmation is received

Preference may be expressed as to how the information is to be supplied. For example in Welsh; a paper copy of the information; a spreadsheet or a summary.

Where reasonably practicable, the School will comply with the stated preference. Where it is not reasonably practicable to comply with the applicant’s preference we will explain why.

 

Part 3: Explaining the Principles

 

1.      The School will be as open as possible
The School will make information available unless there are legal or public interest reasons for not doing so.

Examples where information would not be made public include:

  • Where information requested under the Freedom of Information Act falls within one of the categories of exempt information listed in Appendices 1 and 2 and where relevant, the public interest lies in withholding it
  • Where an exception under the Environmental Information Regulations applies
  • Where a breach of confidentiality would occur
  • Where information contained in reports to School committees are deemed confidential or exempt under Section 100 of the Local Government Act 1972

Meetings of the Governing Body will take place in public. However, there may be occasions when the public will be excluded when exempt information is being discussed. This will be identified on the agenda.

2.      Presentation of business
The School will present its business in clear language in line with its language scheme. It will aim to produce brief, easy to read documents and will have regard to the needs of differing sectors of the community including people with disabilities. 

3.      Publication scheme
The School maintains a publication scheme, which provides a means by which the public can identify key information produced by the School in the course of its business.

The publication scheme can be found on the School’s website. The School is committed to maximising the use of its website to publish information. 

4.      Providing a prompt and comprehensive response to a request for information
The School will respond promptly and positively to requests for information.

If we withhold information and/or are unable to provide the information in the form preferred and requested by the applicant we will explain why.

The School is required to respond to a request for information under the Act or Regulations promptly and in any event, within 20 working days of its receipt. A working day means any day excluding a Saturday, Sunday or any day that is a designated Bank Holiday.

The 20 working day period for response begins:

  • The day after a request is received by the School, or
  • The day the School receives further information which it needs to identify and locate the information requested

However, where a request is sent by email, if an automated ‘out of office’ message provides instructions on where to re-direct a message, the request would not be received by the School until it was re-sent to the alternative contact.

Where the School is not able to provide the information free of charge and decides to charge a fee, the applicant will be advised that a charge will be made.   Confirmation of the payment due will be given before the information is provided and payment will be requested prior to provision of the information.

Requests for information received in Welsh will receive a response in Welsh. Where documents are only available in English they will be provided in that form but under cover of a letter or email in Welsh.

In dealing with a request for information, the School is not required to acquire or create information it does not already hold. If we believe that another public School may hold the information being sought we will consult with them.

The applicant will be advised that the School does not hold the information and be given details of how to contact the relevant School. The option will also be given, with the applicant’s permission, of having the request transferred to the School holding the information.

Information that is already available as part of an existing charged service will be provided through that service.

The School will not normally provide information which is already reasonably accessible to the applicant and in particular, information made available under the publication scheme. However, when publically available information is requested and available in an electronic format, such requests will be considered to avoid the need for a member of the public to visit the office in the interests of sustainability.

The School will always be as open and helpful as possible but it will, where appropriate, proceed in accordance with the provisions of the Act as far as vexatious and repeat requests for information are concerned.

Where the School refuses to provide information the response will include advice on how to make a complaint.

5.      Providing a right of complaint
The School will provide a right of complaint where a member of the public is not satisfied with the response received to a request for information or disagrees with a decision to withhold information.

Where the School refuses to provide information, the notification of the decision will include details of how to make an initial complaint to the Chief Executive who will initiate an internal review. The contact details of the Information Commissioner’s Office will also be provided.

6.      Charging for Information
The School aims to make as much information as possible available free of charge. However, where a large amount of photocopying or printing is required a charge will be made.

The standard cost per copy is as follows:

  • A4 black & white 20p
  • A4 colour 30p
  • A3 black & white 50p
  • A3 colour £1.00
  • A2 £3.50
  • A1 £4.00
  • A0 £4.50

The School will not charge for copies costing less than £2.00 in total. All charges are inclusive of VAT. Please note that if the copies are being posted please add an extra £1.00 to cover the postage.

The School reserves the right to charge at a higher rate where any statutory right to do so applies, or when documents are provided in the course of legal transactions.

Certain publications may also have a cover price. Where the information is already available in a priced publication the School will provide details of the publication and where to obtain it.

If your request is likely to incur any charge the School will advise you of this and allow you to confirm whether you wish to continue with the request before it undertakes any work.

The School will not charge for the following:

  • Any information provided on the School’s website (except where hard copies are required and this requires extensive printing)
  • Free leaflets, forms and booklets concerning the services we make available to the public
  • Inspection of public registers held at School offices during normal working hours. Please note that copies of such information may only be held in one office

7.      Protecting privacy
A great deal of the information that the School holds is personal and private to individuals. Such information will not be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations where this would breach any of the Data Protection principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998.

Individuals have a separate right to access to personal data about themselves under the Data Protection Act.

Such requests should be made in writing to the Head teacher, at the contact details provided at the beginning of this Code, or via email: office@builth-hs.powys.sch.uk

8.      Ensuring equality of treatment
This Code must be applied consistently to all irrespective of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, language, disability, religion, age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, parental or marital status.

 

Data Protection Act Policy - Updated

Freedom of Information (FOI) Policy

Publications Scheme

CCTV Policy

Biometric Data Policy

Disposal of Records Policy

 

 

Appendix 1: The Freedom of Information Act – exempt information

 

Part 2 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 sets out categories of ‘exempt information’, that is, information which the School is not obliged to disclose. Some of the categories have ‘absolute exemption’ from disclosure. This means that if information falls into one of these categories the School can automatically refuse to disclose it.

If the information falls into one of the other categories, then the School has to apply the public interest test.

Absolute exemptions:

·         Section 21 – Information that is already reasonably accessible e.g. information covered by the publication scheme

  • Section 23 – Information supplied by, or relating to bodies dealing with security matters
  • Section 32 – Court records
  • Section 34 – Parliamentary privilege
  • Section 36 – Information likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs
  • Section 40 – Personal information. Individuals cannot access personal data about themselves under the Freedom of Information Act as there is a separate right of access under the Data Protection Act 1998. Personal data about third parties cannot be released if to do so would breach any of the data protection principles. Where it is considered that the release would breach any of the data protection principles, it is not necessary to apply the public interest test
  • Section 41 – Information provided in confidence
  • Section 44 – Legal prohibitions on disclosure (such as where disclosure would constitute contempt of Court)

 

Appendix 2: Qualified exemptions

The following exemptions are subject to the public interest test. This means that the information must be released unless the public interest in withholding it is greater than the public interest in releasing it.

  • Section 22 – Information intended for future publication
  • Section 24 – National security
  • Section 26 – Defence
  • Section 27 – International relations
  • Section 28 – Relations within the United Kingdom.
  • Section 29 – The economy
  • Section 30 – Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
  • Section 31 – Law enforcement
  • Section 33 – Audit Functions
  • Section 35 – Formulation of government policy
  • Section 37 – Communications with Her Majesty, etc.
  • Section 38 – Health and safety
  • Section 39 – Environmental information, as this can be accessed through the Environmental Information Regulations
  • Section 40 – Personal Information. Certain limited parts of this section require the public interest test to be applied
  • Section 42 – Legal professional privilege
  • Section 43 – Information relating to commercial issues

Where the School considers that the public interest in withholding the information requested outweighs the public interest in releasing it, the School must inform the applicant of its reasons, unless doing so would mean releasing the exempt information.