BHA submits response to legal case over whether Government must publish list of proposed Free Schools

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has submitted its response to a legal case over whether the Department for Education (DfE) must publish a list of all proposed Free Schools, including their faith. The case at the Information Tribunal, ‘Department for Education v Information Commissioner and British Humanist Association’, is occurring as a result of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the BHA, asking for this information.

The FOI request was made by the BHA on 21 June 2011, and asked for:

A list of Free School proposals received by the Department for Education, including the 323 received during the first wave [i.e. September 2011 opening] and the 281 received during the second wave [i.e. September 2012 opening], giving for each:
The name of the project
The local authority/area of the proposed school
The previous name (if applicable) of the proposed school
The faith (if any) of the proposed school
Whether the proposal was received in the first wave or the second wave
The DfE rejected this request, arguing that to publish the information would The DfE rejected this request, arguing that to publish the information would disrupt the formation of government policy. The BHA appealed this decision to the ICO, which in July this year ruled that the DfE must publish the information, as the public interest favours disclosure. However, in August, the DfE appealed the ICO’s ruling to the Information Tribunal.

The BHA was subsequently added as a second respondent to the case, and has now submitted a 4,600 word response. In its response, the BHA argued that disclosing this information would not harm the Free Schools programme, but in fact might benefit it by increasing public trust in the programme, and meaning that those schools which are pre-approved to open by the DfE are more likely to go on to obtain final approval.

BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘The BHA is not opposed to Free Schools, however we do have concerns around some of the additional freedoms they enjoy, allowing further discrimination in curriculum and employment policies as compared to other types of state funded school.

‘We believe that an important part of being able to scrutinise proposals for new schools, not least of all religious schools, is by knowing what schools have been proposed. Currently that is not the case with Free Schools until after the Government has backed them.’

The DfE is now due to reply to the BHA and Information Commissioner’s responses, before the Tribunal judge makes a decision.


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the ICO ruling on the BHA’s case:

Read the BHA news item, ‘BHA becomes party to legal case over whether Government must publish list of proposed Free Schools’, 28 August 2012:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Government appeals Information Commissioner ruling that it must publish list of proposed Free Schools’, 9 August 2012:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Landmark ruling: Information Commissioner concludes that DfE must publish list of proposals to open Free Schools’, 6 July 2012:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.