Best Practice Update

Freedom of Information text on a key on a white computer keyboard

Handling Freedom of Information Requests the right way

The Information Commissioner's Office have recently put Leicester City Council forward as an FOI (Freedom of Information) best practice example. An FOI refers to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The Act allows any individual or organisation to make a request to a public authority for information they have recorded. 

What is the difference between an FOI and a SAR?

An FOI can only be made to public authorities and does not cover personal information about any individual. A SAR can be made to any organisation and only covers personal information. 

What are my obligations under the Act?

A public authority has 20 working days, or 20 school days, to respond. Any request must be answered, even where an exemption is applied or no information is held. 

Leicester City Council received 1,007 FOI requests in 2022 and have the right processes in place in order to avoid any delays at the very start of the Freedom of Information Request.  Information from the ICO's post on LinkedIn.

A central team, with knowledge of who holds the information, logs and monitors requests while service areas supply the detail needed for the reply. All teams work together to meet the 20-day response deadline.

  • Teams have clear instructions on what to do if they don’t hold the information or have questions;
  • Directors are sighted on all requests and senior managers take their responsibilities seriously; and
  • The council also offers a satisfaction survey to all requesters to improve their responses.
The full story can be viewed here: Leicester City Council: Logging requests, prompt clarification and promotion of awareness. 

All public authorities, including schools, are required under the Freedom of Information Act to adopt a publication scheme that has been approved by the Information Commissioner (ICO).

Review our Freedom of Information Best Practice Library which gives guidance about the ICO and the DfE requirements for having a publication scheme.  In order to support schools, we have combined statutory policies and included these in our model template: Freedom of Information Template Policy.

Publication Scheme Model Documents

Maintained Schools

Detailed Publication Scheme for cross-referencing (internal document):DPE Example Publication Scheme Maintained (243 KB)

High-Level Publication Scheme (for publishing on the school website): DPE Publication Scheme Maintained High-Level (229 KB)


Detailed Publication Scheme for cross-referencing (internal document):DPE Example Publication Scheme Academies (244 KB)

High-Level Publication Scheme (for publishing on the school website): Template Publication Scheme Academy High-Level (228 KB)

Unsure about where you are with your FOI? then use our FOI Checklist to get an overview.

Follow our guidance on Dealing with Freedom of Information Requests.

We list the latest ones our customers receive with guidance and support on how to reply on our news page: Data Protection Education News.

If you receive an FOI that add it to the FOI Log on the Data Protection Education Knowledge Bank and let us know if you need any additional support.