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11 March 2022
ATISN 16054 – Relationships and Sexuality Education
Thank you for your request which I received on 7th February. You asked for:
- Any previous drafts of the Consultation Analysis on the Relationships and Sexuality Guidance and Code prepared by Wavehill.
- Any correspondence between Welsh Government and Wavehill relating to the preparation of the summary report published in November 2021.
A copy of the information to be release is enclosed.
I have decided that some of the information is exempt from disclosure under section 35(1) (a), formulation of government policy and section 40, personal information of the Freedom of Information Act and is therefore withheld. The reasons for applying this exemptions are set out in full at Annex A to this letter.
If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response. Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:
Information Rights Unit,
or Email: Freedom.firstname.lastname@example.org
Please remember to quote the ATISN reference number above.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office,
However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review process.
Application of exemptions/exceptions
The Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) provide a right for anyone to ask a public authority to make requested information available to the wider public. As the release of requested information is to the world, not just the requester, public authorities need to consider the effects of making the information freely available to everybody. Any personal interest the requester has for accessing the information cannot override those wider considerations.
I have decided to withhold the following information:
Information being withheld
Section number and exemption name
Correspondence between Welsh Government officials and Wavehill includes references to policy views and options that relate to areas beyond the preparation of the published summary report. Released information has therefore been redacted to withhold references to these wider policy development considerations.
s35(1)(a) “formulation of government policy” exemption.
Names and personal information of colleagues in Wavehill and Welsh Government
Section 40, personal information
This Annex sets out the reasons for the engagement of section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act and our subsequent consideration of the Public Interest Test.
Engagement of section 35(1) (a) ‘formulation of government policy’ of the FoIA
The withheld information in question relates to development of policy that does not directly relate to the consultation summary report.
As the nature of this withheld information is clearly focused on wider policy discussions and development, I would suggest, the exemption is clearly engaged.
Public Interest Test
In order to satisfy the public interest test in relation to the exemption(s), it is necessary to conclude that the public interest arguments in favour of withholding the information are sufficient to outweigh the public interest arguments in favour of release.
Public interest arguments in favour of disclosure
There is a public interest in supporting the public to understand how the Welsh Government is intending to address issues raised by respondents to their consultation, as it develops policy related to RSE. This policy area is extremely sensitive - the subject of what is taught in schools under Relationship and Sexuality Education is emotive, engendering strong feelings on certain elements from differing perspectives. Disclosure could illustrate how the wider evidence gathered during the consultation has been used to shape policy around provision in schools and additional support for practitioners and learners.
Public interest arguments in favour of withholding
The information being withheld relates to broader policy considerations that do not directly relate to the consultation report. It focuses on discussions of general observations from the consultation evidence and how these might be used to inform policy development. Policy development in such a sensitive area with strong feelings from a range of conflicting stakeholders may be easily taken out of context.
It is important that stakeholders can confidently discuss their views with officials as policy is developed. Making this information publically available would prejudice future policy development and could lead the public to believe a policy direction has been agreed, when it has only been discussed and considered as part of an ongoing process.
Balance of public interest test
The policy area has been widely considered within a range of consultations relating to the Curriculum for Wales from 2019 onwards. Alongside these there has been extensive stakeholder engagement and input from different specialists into the process of policy development leading to scrutiny by all members of the Senedd during the affirmative procedure in December 2021. As such, we believe the balance lies in favour of maintaining the exemption.