Information

Covid-19 reopening of schools: FOI release

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


Information requested

  • Any internal Scottish Government communications (including emails, typed or hand-written notes, phone calls or otherwise) concerning the reopening of schools.
  • Any briefings or analysis issued to Ministers on the subject of (at least in part) the reopening of schools.

This was to cover the period 25 February 2021 to 04 March 2021.  You further refined the request on 13 May, specifying that under the phrase “reopening of schools”, you are “specifically looking for anything relating to the timing of the reopening of schools, such as considerations around bringing forward the reopening date for particular year groups, or indeed postponing the reopening for particular age groups.”

Response

Attached is a copy of some of the information requested. 

Some of the information you have requested is available from already-published sources, which are detailed in the Schedule of Documents. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.  This relates to an academic journal, and the full title of the publication is provided.

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 certain exemptions under FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in Annex A.

The schedule of documents is provided at Annex B.

ANNEX A
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies

An exemption under section(s) 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies to personal data of third parties, and means that the personal details of junior officials, and direct contact details of senior officials, have been redacted.

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.


An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under Section 28(1) applies to some of the information you have requested.  Section 28 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) exempts information from disclosure where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between administrations in the UK (e.g. between Westminster and Holyrood).

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 it is relating to the provision of education during the pandemic.

However, this is outweighed by the public interest in the Scottish Government being able to engage in frank, honest and challenging discussions with other UK administrations, in confidence, when developing Scottish Government policy, without fear of prejudicing relations with other UK administrations.

An exemption under section(s) 29(1)(a) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies to information used in the formulation or development of government policy.


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 it is relating to the provision of education during the pandemic in particular schools.

However, this is outweighed by the public interest in the Scottish Government being able to have a safe, shared space to develop, discuss and debate early policy ideas, some of which might not ultimately become final policy.  Any final policy decisions are communicated via Ministerial announcements and/or to the Scottish Parliament.

Exemptions under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested.  Information is exempt under section 30(b)(ii) if disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially, the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.  This means that disclosing this information would likely inhibit the sharing of information between the Scottish Government and its partners.


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 it is relating to the provision of education during the pandemic in particular schools.

However, this is outweighed by the public interest in the Scottish Government being able to access frank views from its education delivery partners.  Disclosing information in this manner would mean that partners are less likely to provide such information in future, for fear of disclosure under a request such as this.

An exemption under Section 36(1) applies to some of the information you have requested.  Under Section 36(1), information may be withheld if it is information in respect of which a claim to confidentiality of communications could be maintained in legal proceedings (for example, if information is “legal privileged”). 

The exemption in section 36(1) is subject to the public interest test in FOISA. This means that, even if the exemption applies, the information must be disclosed unless the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

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 it is relating to the provision of education during the pandemic.

However, this is outweighed by the public interest in the Scottish Government being able to access advice from its appointed legal specialists, to safely and competently consider and discuss potential legal issues encountered in the development of Scottish Government policy.  It is in the public interest that the Scottish Government’s policies are legal when announced/delivered, and the provision of frank, confidential legal advice is a key part of that process.

About FOI
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.

FOI202100178134 - Annex B

Contact

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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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