DfE bottom of the class for information request punctuality

The Department for Education (DfE) has been ranked bottom of the class for punctuality in responding on time to information requests such as ministers correspondence and parliamentary questions.

The DfE also had one of the worst records among all Whitehall departments in responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests promptly, a new study has found.

The Institute for Government (IfG) think tank analysed government transparency data from 2010 to 2016 before ranking departments.

The DfE came bottom for answering Parliamentary questions and ministerial correspondence on time. It posted what looks like the third worst FOI response time (table below).


Bronwen Maddox, director at the IfG, said: “It is essential for accountability that everyone uses this kind of data, whether government departments better understanding how they operate, or Parliament and public scrutinising how government is performing.

“In both cases, the aim is the same: government that works better and is as transparent, effective and accountable as it can be.”

Schools Week reported earlier this month how the DfE was in danger of falling below the floor standard for meeting its legal duty to respond in a timely manner to FOI requests.

The IfG report, titled Whitehall Monitor, found that government departments withholding information requested under FOI had risen from 25 per cent in 2010, to 40 per cent last year.

But a DfE spokesperson said its FOI response rate between 2010 and 2015 had improved by eight per cent, while volume of requests during the same period increased by nearly 130 per cent.

“The latest available figures show the department has consistently performed above the threshold for response times since 2013.”

The DfE did fare better in its timely publication of monthly spend over £25,000 reports; it was ranked fourth best.

The IfG also found that the DfE came out relatively unscathed compared to other departments after Theresa May’s reshuffle. More than 40 per cent of ministers held their posts at the DfE, although one of the new appointments was the education secretary, Justine Greening.

The department also came out top for the percentage of civil servants who were satisfied with their pay (45 per cent).

The DfE was one of only five departments whose budgets increased between 2011-12 and 2015-16.

But the institute found the government was “still trying to do too much” – highlighting the growing number of “major projects”.

However figures showed the DfE had the fifth lowest number of ‘priorities’ (such as manifesto commitments) in its single departmental plans. The department had 45, compared to nearly 100 at the Department for Transport, and more than 70 at the Treasury.


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