For the purposes of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, state schools come under their respective local authority. It is therefore the local authority that is obliged to comply with the requirements of the Act rather than the individual school.
However, once subject to the requirements of the Act, grant-aided and independent special schools will be separate public authorities responsible for responding to information requests in their own right.
For the reasons referred to above, in spring 2016 the Scottish Government consulted on proposals allowing greater flexibility in response times, specifically for grant-aided and independent special schools.
Section 10(4) of the Act allows for regulations to be made varying the standard 20 working day response deadline - up to a maximum of having to respond by no later than the 60 th working day after receipt of a request.
Similarly, section 21(6) of the Act allows for regulations to be made varying the standard 20 working day response deadline for responding to a requirement to review the handling of an information request.
In accordance with the above powers, the proposed regulations require a response to an information request, or a request for review, within 20 working days but disregarding any working day which is not also a school day. A response must still be issued promptly and no later than the 60 th working day following the date of receipt of an information request (or request for a review). A school day is defined as a day on which a school is ordinarily open to its pupils for the purpose of their school education.
The proposals are intended to allow sufficient time to respond to FOI requests (and reviews) whilst taking into account school holidays. They are designed to take into account both the working arrangements of the schools as well as the interests of a requestor in receiving as effective a response as possible - even if on occasion later than the standard 20 working day timescale.
Email: Andrew Gunn, firstname.lastname@example.org