Publication - FOI/EIR release

Discussions held relating to the cancellation of exams 2021: FOI release

Published: 24 Feb 2021

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
24 Feb 2021
Discussions held relating to the cancellation of exams 2021: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000098431
Date received: 27 Oct 2020
Date responded: 23 Nov 2020
Information requested

1. Can you please advise and assist in the provision of any written correspondence and comms, extant in email, written transcript, minutes of meetings or letters, which mentions the following:

  • Cancellation of National 5 Exams in 2021 (or similar language and synonyms).
  • Postponement of Higher and Advanced Higher Exams in 2021 (or similar language and synonyms).
  • The 2021 exam diet (or similar language and synonyms).

We would be interested in seeing correspondence that occurred internally between the Cabinet Secretary for Education and his deputies/direct reports and other ministers within the Scottish Cabinet and their deputies/direct reports.

We would also be interested in seeing correspondence between the Cabinet Secretary for Education and his deputies/direct reports and the Scottish Qualifications Authority which mentions the aforementioned.

The time period we are interested in is between the 23 March 2020 to 8 October 2020.

2. Can you please advise and assist in the provision of any written, correspondence and comms between the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and his deputies/direct reports and Professor Mark Priestley of the University of Stirling and author of National Qualifications experience 2020 - rapid review: our response.

This should encompass the period, Thursday 19 March to 8 October 2020 and be extant in email, written transcript, minutes of meetings or letters.

On 27 October, you further clarified that the Cabinet Secretary for Education’s “deputies/direct reports” refers to Ministers in the Deputy First Minister’s portfolio and officials working in his office.

Response

Find attached a copy of the information you have 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 an exemption under section 29(1)(a) (policy development), 29(1)(b) (Ministerial communications), 30(c) (effective conduct of public affairs) or 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Section 29(1)(a) applies to information which is exempt as it relates to ongoing policy development.

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 some public interest in release because of the need for open and transparent government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing a space for development of policy relating to the delivery of the 2021 SQA exam diet. While the information has contributed to the development of an overarching policy position, announced by the Deputy First Minister on 7 October 2020, it also relates to the ongoing development of how that policy will be brought into effect and therefore it is in the public interest for this to be withheld in order to allow space for that development.

An exemption under section 29(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Section 29(1)(b) applies to information which is exempt as it is communication between Scottish Ministers.

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 some public interest in release because of the need for open and transparent government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing Scottish Ministers a private space within which policy positions can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Section 30(c) applies to information which is exempt as release could prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. This has been applied to the dial-in details for meetings held via teleconferencing facilities. Disclosing this information would allow uninvited parties to access these meetings in the future, which would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

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. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate/meet and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able conduct this aspect of its business effectively. 

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. 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.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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