This week, the Alliance won a ruling from the ICO, following numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain a copy of the Department for Education's externally-commissioned research into the cost of delivering early education and childcare.
The DfE commissioned Deloitte to undertake research to support a governmental review into the cost of delivering early education and childcare. However, while the review was published last November, the research, which focused on the cost pressures facing early years providers, was never published, but frequently cited in the report.
The Alliance's request through the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the research in January was rejected by the DfE on the grounds that the information was held by Deloitte, not the Department. An appeal by the Alliance was rejected on the same grounds.
The early years organisation took the case to the ICO, which has now rejected the DfE's argument and ruled in the Alliance's favour.
The ICO decision note stated, 'Having carried out research for the sole benefit of the DfE, the Commissioner considers that it is not plausible to suggest that the research information is not held by Deloitte on behalf of the DfE and that the DfE is not able to access that research when the report was carried out on instructions from and funded by the DfE.'
The Department for Education now has 35 days to issue a fresh response to the Alliance's request.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, 'We are very pleased that the Information Commissioner’s Office has ruled in our favour and agreed that the Department for Education’s argument that it doesn’t hold research that it itself commissioned, and subsequently used, does not wash.
'The research commissioned by the DfE to Deloitte played an integral role in its review of childcare delivery costs, and by extension, the development of the new early years funding rates due to come into effect next year. As such, this information should be made public and open to scrutiny, especially given that so many in the sector do not believe that the new funding rates are in fact enough to cover the cost of delivering funded places.
'Given that the ICO was unequivocal in its judgement, we hope that the DfE will now make this research available to us without any further delay.'
A DfE spokesperson said, 'We are currently considering the next steps and will make a decision in due course.'