Publication - FOI/EIR release

Minutes between First Minister and education officials: FOI release

Published: 21 Sep 2021

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

Published:
21 Sep 2021
Minutes between First Minister and education officials: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100206212
Date received: 25 May 2021
Date responded: 26 Aug 2021
Information requested

Last week it was revealed that the First Minister has met with education officials to discuss the SQA’s new alternative accreditation model, as reported in TES (see here: https://www.tes.com/news/SQA-sturgeon-we-wont-have-another-qualifications-fiasco)

I would like (a) copy of the minutes taken at the meetings between the First Minister and education officials and a summary of what was discussed and (b) a copy of any written correspondence between the First Minister and education officials relating to the SQA’s alternative accreditation model.

In addition to the above, I would also like (a) the details and the minutes of any meetings between the First Minister and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and (b) a copy of any written correspondence between the First Minister and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner.

Response

Attached is a copy of the information requested. Please note that we have taken your request for information relating to “SQA’s alternative accreditation model” to mean SQA’s alternative certification model, as this is what is referred to in the TES article, and have provided information in relation to this.

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 sections 29(1)(a) (policy development), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) or 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy around the alternative certification model and National Qualifications, which is still under 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 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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on options for the delivery of the alternative certification model and National Qualifications will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs – free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice our ability to exchange views in an open way whilst deliberating sensitive policy issues relating to the alternative certification model for National Qualifications that remain under consideration, and 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 ensuring that free and frank views can be exchanged in sensitive discussions around ongoing delivery of the alternative certification model for the National Qualifications for young people in Scotland, and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able to conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

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

Also, while, as noted above, we aim to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing some of the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. This applies to the second part of your request. This part of the request is very broad, reaching back to the appointment of the first Children and Young People’s Commissioner (CYPCS) in 2004 and covering all subjects on which the CYPCS and First Minister may have met or corresponded. Under section 12 of FOISA, public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. For example, you could narrow the timeframe of your request, or specify particular subject matter, such as the Alternative Certification Model.

You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on the website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

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.

FOI202100206212 - Annex A

11 page PDF
700.6 kB

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