A request has been made for all copies of correspondence between the Department and local authorities relating to schools in Yorkshire which fall within the National Challenge Initiative (schools failing to meet the target of getting 30 per cent of pupils to achieve five A* to C grades at GCSEs including English and Maths).


In response to the request for information dated 3 October 2008, the Department has decided that the information requested is to be withheld under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The exemptions which apply to this information are section(s) 35 of the Freedom of Information Act.

The request covers copies of all correspondence regarding the National Challenge programme between schools in Yorkshire and the Department and between local education authorities in Yorkshire and the Department.

A public interest test was carried out regarding your request which found in favour of withholding the information for the following reasons:

At this stage Departmental officials are in the process of assessing, moderating and approving local authority funding proposals and their content will be revised in consultation with the local authorities before they are signed off and made public. Ministers and officials need to be allowed time to develop their thinking and explore available options. Disclosure at this stage could cause widespread confusion amongst the public as to what the plans actually are for schools within their local authority.

Decisions on funding and solutions to raise standards in these schools have yet to be decided. At this stage, the draft plans will include early proposals that have yet to be agreed and early disclosure could falsely raise expectations or have a negative impact upon schools, pupils and parents.

Summaries of local authority plans will be published once they have been finalised and publishing them now would impede the policy-making process and potentially cause unnecessary alarm.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote our reference number in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our complaints / review procedure.

The Constitution Unit, a research body at University College London, is carrying out an independent evaluative study of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in co-operation with a number of public authorities, including this Department. An important part of the evaluation process is gathering the experiences and opinions of FOI requesters like you. Any information you provide will be handled in accordance with the privacy policy explained in the survey.