Well Done Little Miss!!
Well Done Little Miss!!
Do you have contact with other local schools? I would be tempted to send an email to others in the area of how you had been approached as a warning to other schools of what I would consider a very poor standard of a company and one to avoid.
As @sparkeh says, it is quite possible they sent this email to multiple educational establishments in your area and have seen the response on this thread and quickly back-peddled thinking they may have lost customers on a larger scale then they anticipated.
I know of a geek in Milton Keynes (?) that had the exact email...
I think they may have also realised that because they were on a sticky wicket asking for blatently commercially sensitive information.
I'm sorry but I had to register and respond to this thread instead of lurking as I have never in the last ten years of beinga governor seen such utter nonsense and misinformation passed on to people in our sector!
This request has gone to who knows how any schools nationally and is absolutely a perfectly valid FOI request. It is exactly what the FOI Act was for. And any school not responding to it is is breaking the law. You are putting your school at risk of ICO intervention, and your Governors and Headteacher should jolly well know better!! How utterly irresponsible to dismiss it so arrogantly or naively.
The amount of misinformation on here about data protection is also completely STAGGERING!!! Information about a company or school is NOT personal data! The only bit of the question that may be personal data is the name and direct contact of the person to contact... unless that's already on your school website, and then it's already in the public domain and must also be gven out.
The info they have asked for is NOT commercially sensitive. Trade secrets are, or some particular make up parts of contracts, but the total value of a contract is not. Financially sensitive is different to commercially sensitive. You also have to do a public interest test. It is in the public interest to reveal how much tax payers money is being paid out by schools. No-one will die if you release this totally innocuous info! School budgets are also releaseable under FOIA and how much you pay for your contracts.
To say it will take too long to do... How on earth can it take you over 18 hours to just tell someone who your printing supplier is and how much you pay them in a year? Just no, you can easily find such info. Or I would suggest you sack your bursar / office manager.
I am shocked at how rude people have been about this company who may genuinely be able to offer you a better deal! The whole point of FOI is to open up such spending of public money (not YOUR money) and be able to offer competitively priced quotes. This company is doing their research and could be fantastic for all you know, and because they write you a letter, you try and make out they are the devil and no-one should consider them? You're lucky they don't take action against you!!
If there are any Chair of Governors on here, you need to get trained and get smart about FOI requests before you get yourself and your schools into a whole load of trouble, because this thread is showing such a lack of awareness about this legal requirement it's terrifying. Not to mention the dreadful attitude to transparency and openness!
Yes, I agree too, and I am a governor.
However, @governorleic69 , whilst a response is needed, I do not think you have any idea of the sort of badgering, hassle and general annoyance that companies can and do cause people like us in IT in schools.
We get harangued on a daily basis - companies try all sorts of underhand ways to get information from us, and it is hard to see how we should respond.
Your argument is really with the management and governors - I don't know of any IT personnel who have been given any guidelines on what to do if they receive an FOI request, what constitutes sensitive information, or even who, in their organisation or Local Authority they should speak to about it.
I dispute that this is exactly the sort of thing the FOI act was for. I don't believe it was put in place to provide sales opportunities for random companies.
You make some valid points but your overly hysterical use of capitals and exclamation marks takes away from the sense of what you are saying.
*edit The second and fifth post (and others) both stated that the OP should contact the FOI person at the LA, so not everyone "got it wrong" :)
Just as a couner to the rather rabid response, can I just point out a few things.
1. This is not what the FOI Act was created for. Go read the Hansard records for its creation and you'll find it is very specific what it is for; making available information in the public interest to ensure transparency in taxpayer funded institutions. There's no intent for it to be used as a tool for companies to try to compete for business.
2. Commercially sensitive can mean exactly the same thing as financially sensitive. It is quite possible also that contracts signed by a school have a clause which disallows their publishing without agreement of the supplier. Publishing contract values can damage the future commercial interests of a school, as it means companies might not quote for business, or might now not give the best price as they know they are doing well, against your existing supplier. So, a school is perfectly entitled to deny access to such information. I put potentially commercially sensitive on a few points in my response earlier as you'd have to look at the individual school and contract before determining if it was or not.
3. The amount of time wasted in schools, dealing with suppliers who try to trick us into buying their wares, who lie, who manipulate and con, is quite substantial. Add in the fact that we seem to have a ratio of 100:1 toner suppliers to people in the country and suddenly providing all sorts of information every day, counter to the actual reason we're in school in the first place (educating kids), your could excuse a certain level of anger with scattergun data harvesting...
Well this has certainly got people talking. The FOI and Data Protection community are so horrified at some of the advice given in this thread earlier, one of the country's FOI experts is running a competition to spot all the mistakes...
I work in a school, we receive a tiny handful of requests each year, unlike councils for example that receive thousands (my friend works in the LA's info team, it's amazing what they get asked). Our office manager and Chair of Governors deal with them quickly, and it certainly wouldn't be left to the IT person to do them. How would he/she be expected to know what to send out or not send out? If your school is asking you to answer these sorts of legal requests with no training you need to ask for help or you are putting yourself and the school at risk. It is not the responsibility of the local authority, or staff, it is the responsibility of governors to answer them. We've all been told that at our staff meetings. If you have problems with this, talk to your union reps if they are supportive.
I work in a school that happily refuses all FoI. We are independent. We don't spend public money. We can tell the requestor to get knotted :)
There really are some childish people about. Creating competitions? Really? "This is what FOI was created for." Really? Bending the rules to suit your own ends works both ways, be it if you don't want to (but usually legally obliged) provide the requested information, or if you're sending someone an FOI for your *OWN INTENTS AND PURPOSES*
The vast, vast majority of us folks supporting IT in schools have the best interests of their schools at heart and backhanded antics like using the FoI for commercial reasons like has been intimated (or indeed not as maybe the case) will quite rightly put anyone off. "May legitimately be trying to save you money"
Sure, sure. What these people are legitimately trying to do is to make themselves money. Nothing less, nothing more. This isn't a bad thing, they're a business after all, but very few businesses are trying to save anyone money. That is not their purpose. That is our job, and we will do the best we can to save the school money and do what's best.
I've not chuckled so much in a long time.
Apparantly the point that 'The law is the law' has gone amiss. Regardless if this is good bad or in different it is the law. It is an unfortunate byproduct of a decent and useful legislation in most cases that is being abused more and more the more people get wise to it.
Definitely charge for it though. Surely too that the same sorts of questions come in so just design a template and send off.
Even better, put the answers in one long text line with no spaces. You are complying. Can you encrypt the responses I wonder?:D
Is that the FoI equivelent of paying your parking fine in pennies? ;)
*public service announcement*
If you are reading this thread to enter a competition, you have way too much time on your hands :p
(and don't try and sneakily use this as an extra error, it's factually true, you sneaky lawyer types)