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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:15 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:02 pm
Posts: 4
Good evening, everyone! Does anyone know if we are allowed to see the reference letter -- or report -- the school sends out to other schools for our children as part of the 11+ process? Do heads have the right to refuse to show them to us on the basis of confidentiality or do they have to share it if parents ask for a copy? Or is this a subjective decision at their discretion? Does anyone have experience of this? Any advice would be much appreciated.. (One pre-prep school head refused a friend's request saying it was confidential and I have not asked ours yet). I am curious because our (independent prep) school's head tried to discourage us from applying for one highly academic school saying our DD would not get in because she was not "independent enough." It is true she is a bit of an absent minded professor but has done remarkably well in all the entrance exams of all the schools she has entered for, and got interviews at each of them, in addition to passing the first rounds of HBS and Latymer, and in the meantime her current school has also invited her to a scholarship interview for their senior school so they obviously don't want her to leave. I was also wondering if heads' reports are fairly standard letters -- like brief job reference letters provided by employers -- or do they go into detail about your child and would they include negative comments. I just wonder if it is acceptable in these letters to drill that deep -- ie questioning a child's independence, etc. And presumably they send out the same proforma letter to all the schools? I would hate it if any negative comment would influence the decision of the schools my DD has applied for. Thanks so much in advance. This is such a fantastic forum, by the way!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:44 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2007 10:47 am
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Location: Warwickshire.
Hi there Highgatemum. Welcome to the forum.
Apologies that you've not had a reply yet.
My gut reaction is that you won't be able to see the reference/report. Assuming that those writing them are professionals and are obliged to report the truth, it may be that in some cases it would be impossible to show the parent(s).

I may be wrong, but that's my feeling.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:33 am 
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Location: Wales
I thought that all references are exempt from FOI requests. I suppose it makes sense as a reference is supposed to be an honest opinion which people may be reluctant to provide if there was a chance the referee would get to see it.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:59 am 
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Joined: Tue May 05, 2009 9:26 pm
Posts: 439
I think that strictly the request for the reference would be made under the Data Protection Act rather than the FOIA. That said I suspect that there is a good chance that a reference of this type is exempt from a Data subject Access request - I haven't had a chance to check for you but the exemptions are in one of the schedules to the Act which you should be able to google them / look on the Information Commissioner's website - you should find a copy of the legislation there.

That said I would be inclined to just ask the school for a copy of the reference and see what response you get - you never know - they might just give it to you. If they refuse you could then check the Act to see whether you have a right to see it / they have a right to withold it.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:05 am 
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Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 9:51 pm
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The school would be exempt under the DPA, although as said it would be worth asking nicely anyway. You may be able to get it from the recipient under the DPA in some circumstances but I don't know any details.

Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:14 am 
I had this problem about 9 months ago and I am convinced the Head tried to do us over because we were led to believe DS had a place but they were just waiting for the school report and then all of a sudden the offer was not there. Funny how he was never a problem at his current school until he leaves! :roll:

Independent schools do not need to give this information but state schools are required too if asked. Personally, any information about your child should be allowed to be viewed by the parent - after all it is their child! :x


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:46 pm 
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As a layman my opinion is no better than anyone else's, but (1) this is personal information, so the DPA applies, not the FOIA and (2) references are exempt from the DPA, so no, you don't have a right to see them.

Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:45 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 9:51 am
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Location: Birmingham
Our DC's state primary were happy to provide copies but then again, the report was rather light & uncontroversial. A marketing doc for the child it most certainly wasn't!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:27 pm 
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We had this situation with our independent school applications as we were leaving a prep school which wanted children to stay till 13 rather than leaving at 11. Our prep school had a reputation of the references never getting there or not being good.

I made a point of photocopying all grade cards and reports for the previous 2 years and taking them to interview with me. I also brought it up at the interviews and said I was really worried that references would either not be sent or not supportive as they didn't want my ds to leave. In each case the schools we were applying to knew only too well that our school never got the references in, found it rather amusing and took pleasure in creaming off their boys. I think it helped that I went armed with info.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:17 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:02 pm
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Hi there and thanks for all the replies, appreciate it very much. I guess we will ask for a copy this week and see what the head says. Unfortunately the interviews are over and I didn't think of bringing copies of school reports with us. I did consider bringing up the matter at the interview stage but didn't in the end as I was concerned about pre-empting this kind of discussion in case they think there's something seriously wrong. T.i.p.sy - sorry to hear that you had suffered in a similar situation, you couldn't get the report in the end? And Ed's Mum - thanks for your warm welcome!


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