Transparency? What transparency? Authentication now required to get info re schools

Janet Downs's picture

Yesterday I used the Department for Education schools database, Edubase, to check details of some academies which had changed hands. 

Today I tried to access Edubase again.  But instead of the usual public search page I was greeted with an authentication box.

 Edubase has now been replaced by a new database called ‘Get Information About Schools’ (GIAS).     It’s only available for those with a username and password.  There’s no information about how to register and who would be allowed to do so.

I tracked down a spreadsheet (downloadable here) listing schools in England.  But information for each school isn’t on an easy-to-read page as was the case with Edubase.  The DfE spreadsheet has umpteen columns – readers have to whiz up, down and across to find information

The DfE spreadsheet also has omissions and oddities:

  • Names of academy trusts are not given.
  • Special measures judgements are missing.
  • It’s not possible to click on the website address.  This was a feature on Edubase.
  • The spreadsheet has two headings about religion.  One is Religious Character.  The other is Religious Ethos.  It might be expected these two would be the same.  But they aren’t.  State-funded faith schools can have a religious character – Church of England, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh – but the ethos ‘does not apply’.  I found an exception: Krishna Avanti Primary School, a free school in Leicester, has a Hindu character and a Hindu ethos.
  • The heading ‘Reason Establishment Opened’ contains a large number of entries for New Provision.  This label applies to newly-opened independent schools and state-funded free schools, most UTCs and studio schools.   But New Provision also applies to sponsored academies.  Converter academies, on the other hand, are not New Provision but Academy Converter.   Some, but not all, free schools which were previously independent schools aren’t New Provision but Academy Free Schools.  Most free schools, however, aren’t Academy Free Schools but New Provision.

So far, so confusing.  Academy trusts aren’t named.  State schools with a religious character don’t have a religious ethos. Sponsored academies are New Provision; converter academies aren’t.  Most free schools are New Provision; some aren’t.  And most free schools aren’t Academy Free Schools.

This confusion, however, isn’t as disturbing as making it difficult for the public to find information which used to be freely available on Edubase.  The Government claims it supports transparency.  But closing Edubase and substituting it with a database which requires an authenticated password is not transparent.  It’s the opposite.

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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 16/09/2017 - 13:43

Your point is both strong and very important.

I really think you should make your concerns known to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

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