Freedom of Information
West Cork Education Centre Freedom of Information policy
Freedom of Information Act Reference Sections 15 & 16 Reference Book.
The Freedom of Information Act 1997 establishes three new statutory rights:
- A legal right for each person to access information held by public bodies
- A legal right for each person to have official information relating to him/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading.
- A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself.
The Act asserts the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals
The FOI Act is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies that is not routinely available through normal channels.
The West Cork Education Centre which has been a full-time member of the national network of education Centre since 2002 acknowledges May 31st. 2006 as the effective date for compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Management Structure of the West Cork Education Centre:
The Centre which is dedicated to supporting the continuing professional development of teachers and school communities is managed by a Management Committee comprising 9 members elected annually from the core members present at the annual general meeting and an additional 3 members who may be co-opted from the wider educational community subject to a maximum membership of 12.
Core membership is restricted to serving teachers within the defined catchment area of the Centre.
The Management Committee are responsible for the daily running of the Centre in compliance with the recognised policies and procedures of the Department of Education & Science and elect officers and appoint staff in accordance with these objectives and within the financial constraints of the day.
The current management structure is as follows:
- Management Committee
- Committee members
- Administrative Staff
- Secretarial Support
- Ancillary Staff
Functions of the Centre:
The core function of West Cork Education Centre is to provide training, development and support for teachers and the wider school community. To that end partnerships that enhance the delivery of national initiatives are supported and local bottom-up initiatives, which endeavour to manage change, are encouraged where possible.
- The Centre objectives are achieved in the following ways:
- Delivering in-service training to support system needs as determined by the Department of Education & Skills
- Designing and delivering training in response to locally researched and identified needs.
- Provision of resources, facilities in line with identified needs of clients.
Information available in the Centre:
West Cork Education Centre regularly provides information about its facilities, resources, continuing professional development opportunities and general activities by directly contacting schools within our catchment area, by publishing brochures, issuing flyers and newsletters or by means of its website at www.westcorkeducationcentre.ie
This category of routinely available information may be obtained by contacting the Centre directly without recourse to the FOI procedures.
Other classes of information which may be requested under the FOI Act include records of management meetings, records referring to the administration of national in-service programmes, internal administrative files, the annual report of the centre, financial records of the Centre, personnel records and details of CPD activity to include attendance records and evaluation forms.
Applications Under the FOI Act:
Applicants have the right to access all records which come under the scope of the FOI Act. These include all personal information, all records created since the commencement of the Act (21st April 1998) and personnel records of serving staff members.
Request will, in accordance with the legal obligation bestowed upon us by the Act, be responded to within a four week period. A week is defined in the Act to mean 5 consecutive weekdays, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
You may seek internal review of the initial decision made by the Freedom of Information Officer if you are dissatisfied with or do not receive a reply to your initial request within four weeks of your initial application.
Applications Under the FOI Act Should be addressed to:
Freedom of Information Officer,
West Cork Education Centre,
Compiling your application:
(i) (Your application should be in writing and, if applicable, accompanied by the appropriate fee (see "fees" below). The relevant fee should be paid by ; Bank Draft, Money Order, Postal Order or Cheque drawn on a bank in the Republic of Ireland, made payable to The West Cork Education Centre.
You may use the form entitled ‘Request for Information under the Freedom of Information Acts’ which is widely available.
If you are not using the form outlined above, then your application should indicate that the information is sought under the Freedom of Information Act.
(ii) If you require a reply in a particular format i.e. photocopy, computer disk, etc. please mention this in your application.
(iii) Please be as detailed and as specific as possible when compiling your application as this will assist us in dealing with it. It can also result in lesser charges being incurred on search and retrieval in cases where these fail to be paid. Where possible please try to indicate the time period for which you wish to access records e.g. records created between May 2003 and December 2003. If you have any difficulty in preparing your application our staff will be happy to assist you in this regard.
(iv) You may be required to prove your identity, especially when seeking personal information, so you may, therefore, be asked to produce your Birth Certificate, Driving Licence, Passport or other form of identity.
(v) Please include a daytime telephone number, if possible, so that you may be contacted quickly if it is necessary to clarify details of your request.
Assistance to persons with a disability:
We are available to provide assistance to persons with a disability to exercise their rights under the FOI Act (e.g. accepting oral requests from requesters who are unable to read, print and/or write due to their disability, enabling the requester to inspect or have records explained to him/her).
FOI Decision Making in The West Cork Education Centre:
Rights of Review and Appeal:
The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where a Public Body invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be the subject of appeal. Details of the appeals mechanisms are as follows:
Review by the Information Commissioner:
Following completion of internal review, you may seek independent review of the decision from the Information Commissioner. Also if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Information Commissioner.
Appeals in writing, and, if applicable, accompanied by the appropriate fee, (see under Fees below) may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:
Office of the Information Commissioner
18 Lower Leeson Street,
A standard application fee of €15 must accompany an FOI request made under section 7 of the Act for a record or records containing non-personal information.
A reduced fee of €10 applies if the person making such a request is covered by a medical card.
The following requests/applications are exempt from application fees:
(a) A request under section 7 for a record or records containing only personal information related to the requester.
(b) An application under section 17 (right of amendment of records relating to personal information).
(c) An application under section 18 (right of person to information regarding acts of pubic bodies affecting the person).
Review by Information Commissioner:
A standard application fee of €150 must accompany applications to the Information Commissioner for review of decisions made by public bodies under section 34 of the Act.
A reduced fee of €50 applies if:
(a) the person bringing the application is a medical card holder or a dependant of a medical card holder or
(b) the person is specified in section 29(2) i.e. a third party with the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner where a public body decides to release their information on public interest grounds.
The following applications to the Information Commissioner do not require an application fee:
(a) An application concerning records containing only personal information related to the applicant.
(b) An application in relation a decision under section 17 (right of amendment of records relating to personal information).
(c) An application in relation to a decision under section 18 (right of person to information regarding acts of pubic bodies affecting the person).
(d) An application in relation to a decision to charge a fee or deposit exceeding €25.00 under section 47 in respect of search and retrieval and photocopying of records (decisions in relation to the charging of fees or deposits for search and retrieval and/or photocopying of less than €25 are not subject to review by the Information Commissioner).
(d) An application in relation to a decision to charge a fee under section 47(6A), or a fee of a particular amount under section 47(6A), on the grounds that the records concerned do not contain only personal information related to the requester or the requester is not a medical card holder or a dependant of a medical card holder.
(e) An appeal of an internal review decision which is deemed to be refused because that decision was not made within the required time limits.
Search and Retrieval and Photocopying Fees:
Fees may also be charged for search and retrieval of records as follows
- In respect of personal records, fees in respect of the cost of copying the records requested will apply.
- In respect of other (non-personal) information, fees may be charged in respect of the time spent in efficiently locating and copying records, based on a standard hourly rate of €20.95. No charges shall apply in respect of the time spent by public bodies in considering requests.
A deposit may be payable where the total fee is likely to exceed €50.79. In these circumstances, we will, if requested, assist the member of the public to amend the request so as to reduce or eliminate the amount of the deposit.
Charges may be waived in the following circumstances
- where the cost of collecting and accounting for the fee would exceed the amount of the fee; or
- where the information would be of particular assistance to the understanding of an issue of national importance; or
- in the case of personal information, where such charges would not be reasonable having regard to the means of the requester.
Section 47 of the FOI Act sets out the rules for applying search and retrieval fees. Fees are currently set as follows in accordance with Statutory Instruments Nos. 264 of 2003, 139 of 1998 and 13 of 1997:
- €20.95 per hour - search and retrieval
- €0.04 per sheet for a photocopy
- €0.51 for a 3½ inch computer diskette
- €10.16 for a CD-ROM
- €6.35 for a Radiograph (X-Ray)
What to do in the event of a FOI request for minutes of Management Committee meetings:
- We will submit the information to xxxx by email on the morning of xxxx before 1:00
- Signed copies of minutes do not need to be sent. Typed copies with redactions will suffice. The use of XXXX in the place of redactions.
- Only management committee meeting minutes will be provided and not audit and risk committee or other subcommittee minutes
- - All names of management committee members, staff, tutors, teachers, schools or anything where an individual can be identified. This is to include where
- management committee members are named in the attendance of meetings which should be redacted. (GDPR advice)
- - Any commercially sensitive information such as names of businesses or service providers.
- Amounts listed such as bank balances, funding amounts or amounts spent on specific projects can be included as this information will show our transparency as a publicly funded organisation. Care should be taken not to identify an amount which is payable to any one individual.
Policy ratified by the Management Committee on 24th February 2020.