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9 May 2022
ATISN16237 - Home education policy cooperation with the UK
Thank you for your request which I received on 8 April 2022. You asked for:
1. Agendas, minutes and emails relating to meetings and discussion with the Department for Education in London about the formulation of home education law, policy and guidance in Wales and England.
2. I request the information dated from 11 January 2022.
A copy of the information to be released (two email exchanges) is enclosed.
I have decided that some of the information, which relates to correspondence between the Welsh Government and Department for Education is exempt from disclosure under section section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The reasons for applying these exemptions are set out in full at Annex a to this letter.
If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response. Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:
Information Rights Unit,
or Email: Freedom.email@example.com
Please remember to quote the ATISN reference number above.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office,
However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review process.
Application of exemptions/exceptions
The Freedom of information Act provide a right for anyone to ask a public authority to make requested information available to the wider public. As the release of requested information is to the world, not just the requester, public authorities need to consider the effects of making the information freely available to everybody. Any personal interest the requester has for accessing the information cannot override those wider considerations.
I have decided to withhold five email threads of exchange between Welsh Government and Department for Education policy officials under section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (formulation of government policy). This correspondence is directly related to policy formulation, and the formulation of potential legislation and is therefore withheld
This Annex sets out the reasons for the engagement of section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act and our subsequent consideration of the Public Interest Test.
Engagement of section 35 (1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Welsh Government believes that detailed discussions between officials on the formulation of policy and potential legislation should be exempt from disclosure. As this is a developing policy area it would not be prudent to disclose information which is currently under consideration, but which may, or may not subsequently form part of formal policy of either the Welsh or UK Governments. It is not unusual for such discussions to occur, particularly as policy develops, to ensure that we share experience and learning across UK Government’s and ensure that any cross border issues (between the shared England/Wales border) which may arise, are accounted for.
Public Interest Test
In order to satisfy the public interest test in relation to the exemption(s), it is necessary to conclude that the public interest arguments in favour of withholding the information are sufficient to outweigh the public interest arguments in favour of release.
Public interest arguments in favour of disclosure
This is an area where there are many vested interests and individuals, groups and organisations would be interested in seeing how Government develops policy, legislation and practice.
Public interest arguments in favour of withholding
Policy officials are responsible for making recommendations and providing advice to the Minister for Education (Welsh Government) and Secretary of State for Education (UK Government) who take ultimate responsibility for decisions. In formulating policy it is necessary to consider the benefits and otherwise of all possible scenarios before making recommendations, which would ultimately be the subject of formal public consultation. There is n legitimate interest in the public having access to this information which could potentially cause confusion if scenarios which are not subsequently adopted are released and portrayed as Government policy.
Balance of public interest test
This is an area where strong views are held by the home educating community. In particular, following earlier formal consultation views were expressed over what is perceived as undue interference by the State in the individual’s human right to puruse the education of their children. The information being requested and which is being withheld may, or may not ultimately result in formal policy and legislative proposals by the Welsh and/or UK Governments, there is therefore no benefit in disclosing this information.