Monday, February 26, 2007

Keeping a secret

There was an interesting letter today in The Guardian about academy schools.

The judgments of the National Audit Office (Watchdog criticises academies over costs and exam results, February 23) are likely to have been made without access to key secret information about the curriculum provided by academies. The published exam results mean little without knowing the subjects taken. By entering large numbers of pupils for easy subjects with ludicrously generous equivalences to GCSE it is relatively simple to inflate results. The poor results when English and maths are included (22%) suggest that this is taking place. Unlike all other state schools, academies are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

On December 13 I made an FOI request to the Department for Education and Skills requesting the full 2006 examination results subject by subject for each academy. This was refused without giving a reason. In a telephone conversation with the DfES on February 22 I was told that it intended to use a statutory FOI exemption to bar release of these results. These exemptions range from "prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs" to "commercial interests". I await with interest the excuse the government will use to keep secret the subjects taken and pass rates in these publicly funded schools.

Roger Titcombe Ulverston, Cumbria

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