- 10 Apr 2019
Date received: 7 Mar 2019
Date responded: 9 Apr 2019
All a) minutes and b) drafts that led to the statement contained in evidence from the Scottish Government on SNSAs (available here), that “Dr Allison Skerrett (from the University of Texas, Austin) speaking on behalf of the Council said that Scotland had carefully designed the assessments, their modes of delivery and their purpose. She said that Scotland has a real opportunity to be a model for other systems that have employed standardised assessments.”
All correspondence relating to this meeting of the ICEA, including correspondence between members of the ICEA and the Scottish Government.
If the Scottish Government has ever requested that the ICEA make a statement regarding SNSAs. Please include copies and/or details of any such requests.
Whether any members of the ICEA have contacted the Scottish Government directly about SNSAs. and include copies of this correspondence in your response.
In response to your request for the minutes and drafts that led to the statement from Dr Allison Skerrett, I enclose the transcript of the interviews to the print media that Dr Skerrett gave at the Scottish Learning Festival on 19 September 2018 which she attended during the fifth meeting of the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA). While the SNSAs were discussed at the ICEA meeting on 19 September, there is no draft of Dr Skerrett’s statement or reference to it in the minutes because her comments were made in direct response to questions from the media, as is made clear by the enclosed transcript.
In response to your request for all correspondence relating to this meeting I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections (25)(1) (information otherwise accessible), 29(1)(d)(operation of any ministerial private office), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
As there was a large amount of information to provide I have separated my response into two documents. The first response document contains information relating to the papers and minutes of the fifth meeting of the ICEA. The second document contains information about logistics around the organisation of the fifth meeting of the ICEA between Scottish Government officials, ICEA members and booking agents for travel and accommodation. In each document, I have made it clear where an exemption has been applied.
In response to your question about whether the Scottish Government has ever requested that the ICEA make a statement regarding SNSAs, I can confirm that the Scottish Government has made no such request.
In response to your question about whether any members of the ICEA have contacted the Scottish Government directly about SNSAs, I can confirm that Andy Hargreaves asked the Scottish Government to provide copies of the ICEA’s reports and the Scottish Government’s response to those, in advance of his appearance at the Education and Skills Committee’s Inquiry into the SNSA’s on 30 January 2019. The correspondence is attached.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies
Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.
An exemption under section 29(1)(d) of FOISA applies to a small amount of the information requested because it relates to the operation of a ministerial private office.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers a private space within which to operate their private office.
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with the ICEA will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public, particularly while the discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on educational matters until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by the ICEA. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual’s contribution was released against their wishes.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to a small amount of the information you have requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names and contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House