This step-by-step guide covers the process of obtaining information from the school and other services that can be used as evidence to support a challenge to school exclusion. This includes the processes for subject access requests and freedom of information requests.
Subject access requests
A subject access request (SAR) is a request you can make to an organisation to find out what information they hold about you. If a document, video, or other form of information held by a school or other service relates to or clearly identifies a person, then it will likely constitute personal information that can be obtained through the right of subject access.
This will include a young person's school file and the school's correspondence that relates to them.
Freedom of Information
A freedom of information request is the process of obtaining information from a public body that does not relate to an individual. This can include information about the organisation itself, its finances, or its operations.
There is a separate right to access the school file contained in the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005. This applies only to maintained schools and does not include correspondence or other documents that are recorded but not placed on a student's school file.
The steps in this guide
- Obtain forms of authority
Signed declarations allow you to request records on somebody's behalf.
- Identify places to request information
Finding the relevant organisations allows you to obtain the right records.
- Identify the relevant requests
Subject access and freedom of information may both support the case.
- Check to see if there is an outstanding request
The family may have already requested the files, which may make it quicker to receive them.
- Make requests for information
Making a request for information places legal duties on the school or service to respond.
- Chase a late request for information
An SAR should be responded to “without undue delay” and in any event within one calendar month.
- Check that the information received is clear and complete
Reviewing the information you have received to ensure you have what you are entitled to.
- Raise concerns over an unsatisfactory response to SAR or FOI
Raising your concerns with the data-controller is the first step in challenging their response.
- Making a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office
Making a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office can lead to compliance with a request for information.
When to use this guide
It’s always best to request information as early as possible. It can take some time to get the information you want and hearings may come up sooner than a deadline to receive information.
If you want more information on the theory and practice that inform the steps in this guide read the Quick Guide: students and information rights