Siobhan Murphy
Posted on 14 Dec 2018

Freedom of Information Requests to Academies - FAQs

What is a Freedom of Information (FOI) request?

A Freedom of Information Request gives a person the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations. It is not limited to official documents, and also covers:

  • drafts
  • emails
  • notes
  • telephone recordings
  • CCTV recordings
  • letters you receive

Can FOI requests be made against Academy Trusts?

Yes – under the Freedom of Information Act, Academy Trusts constitute a public sector organisation. Individuals such as parents, reporters and MPs could make an FOI against an academy trust or a school. Anyone can request the information regardless of their age, where they live or their nationality.

For the request to be valid it must be made in writing but there is no need for the request to directly state it is an FOI request or for it to be sent to a designated person. The request must also include the requestor's name and address for correspondence, along with some sort of detail regarding the information requested.

What information has to be provided?

Any records within the scope of the request must be provided unless they come within one of the exemptions provided for in the Act.

How long does the Trust have to respond?

An Academy Trust will have either 20 school days to respond to a request or 60 working days - whichever is shorter.

An extension to this time limit can be requested but will only be approved in exceptional circumstances. The request must be confirmed or denied and subsequently responded to.

By approving the response, this is essentially informing the requestor in writing that the Trust holds information of the description specified in the request.

If the request was unclear or ambiguous, the Trust can respond to the requester for further clarification. The time limit for a response will not start until this clarification is provided.

How many FOI's can be made by the same individual in twelve months?

There is not a prescribed limit of Freedom of Information requests.

When can a Trust refuse an FOI?

The Trust can refuse to respond to an FOI where one the exemptions of the Act applies.  The response must be made in writing stating the grounds of the refusal. It should also state the appeals procedure.

The request can also be refused where it is deemed to be vexatious or repeated.