Seckford refuse to say how much Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools are costing

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust have refused to answer a Freedom of Information (FOI) request first sent in early July asking for information about how much Beccles and Saxmundham Free schools are receiving in public funds.

After procrastinating for weeks claiming they were not yet subject to the Freedom of Information Act they eventually responded claiming no less than four exemptions under the Act including "commercial sensitivity" and claiming that responding to the FOI would “inhibit advice, frank debate or prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

The response even failed to identify which exemption was claimed for each of the questions and they failed to carry out any of the “public interest tests” that are required when claiming the qualified exemptions under the FOI (see the FOI exemptions guidance).

This response was to an FOI asking quite simply the pupil numbers the school’s funding was based on, its operating budget and the costs of any building work done. Basic financial information that should be readily available for any public sector organisation.

Meanwhile the earlier FOIs that the DfE “forgot” to respond to about Beccles Free School until after the decision was made and then claimed yet more exemptions are now being investigated by the Information Commissioner.

There is a climate of secrecy around free schools with the DfE and free school providers appearing reluctant to tell us just how much public money is being spent on these projects. It is almost as if there is something to hide...
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