Recently in Department for Education and Skills Category

The Department for Education and Skills has replied to our "anonymous human FOIA proxy") request about the OECD PISA study, made at the suggestion of someone posting a suggestion to this website.

This concerns the OECD PISA study of the educational standards achieved by 15 year olds in 51 countries around the world. Astonishingly, the DfES, through its contractor the Office for national Statistics, somehow managed not to sign up enough schools and pupils in England for the test results to be considered statistically valid enough for international comparision, the whole point of the exercise, and something which has been achieved in previous years.

This is despite increasing financial incentives from £200, to £500 to £1000 in cash to each participating school.

This all sheds an interesting light on the reign of Charles Clarke, who was the Education Secretary at the time, before being appointed Home Secretary a couple of months ago.

As an FOIA request, this one seems to have been successful, with some previously unreleased documents being made available, carefully redacted to remove the personal names of DfES and OECD officials, which is perfectly acceptable, whilst showing the sequence of events.

For those of you interested in comparative educational standards, or wishing to question the Government on school standards, this FOIA reest could prove useful for further probes e.g.

  • Scotland and Northern Ireland did manage to provide a statistically valid sample to the OECD. What about Wales ?

  • If the ONS cannot persuade enough schools to participate, should the contract be given to someone else ?

  • How worthwhile is theis whole OECD PISA statistical exercise anyway ? Does it help to unlock extra European Union funding forr our schools or not ?

    Letter from the DfES, via email, 11th February 2005, i.e. after only 15 working days:

  • We have an email acknowledgement (semi- automated ? ) from the Department for Education and Skills, with a year/number type reference code, for the second of our FOIA Requests, regarding the OECD PISA study.

    Interestingly "the departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should be sent within 15 working days", so, in theory, the 20 days FOIA statutory response period should present them with no difficulty.

    FOIA request: DfES and the OECD PISA study

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    Our second FOIA request to the Department for Education and Skills requests more information on the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, which seems to be conducted in many countries at the same time and compares the educational standards of 15 year olds.

    According to a suggestion on this website, it appears that the UK or at least England may have pulled out of this study. Certainly getting information about the UK involvement with PISA cannot be done at present from what is published on the DfES website.

    The DfES instructions for sending in requests say that they should be marked in bold thus:


    Our second request to the Department for Education and Skills:

    Our first request to the Department for Education and Skills. Confidential sources suggest that the DfES may have tried to grab data on all children in the UK and possibly all their parents and guardians from the Department for Work and Pensions, who, it would seem "did the right thing" and refused.

    DfES has been granted massive powers und the Primary Legislation of the Children Act 2004 section 12 and 29, thereby being able to sidestep both the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act and specifically to force the breach of Common Law duty of Confidentiality for professional medical, educational, social worker etc. advisors with their clients.

    "11) Regulations under subsection (5) may also provide that anything which may be done under regulations under subsection (6)(c) to (e) or (9) may be done notwithstanding any rule of common law which prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information."

    Given that the relatively small scale Reducing Youth Offending Generic Solution (RYOGENS) project is seen to be a model for such national databases, we have also probed to see if similar requests for data on "all children" have been sent to the Police, the Probation Service or the National Health Service.

    This is also an experiment to see if several similar requests can be bundled up as one, or if they need to be sent in individually.

    Our first request to the Department for Education and Skills:

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