Official information

How should the school respond to requests for official information?

Schools are not regularly faced with complex decisions regarding official information requests.

You need to be aware that there are timelines to follow and particular requirements for the contents of a reply to an official information request. 

If a parent requests information about their child, this is covered by the Official Information Act.

If a person requests personal information about themselves, that request is covered by the Privacy Act.

Receiving requests

Members of the public can request official information from boards of trustees of state and state integrated schools and boards need to respond to these requests.

Boards must release information unless there is a good reason under the act for refusing to do so. A board has 20 days to decide whether to grant the request and tell the requester their decision. If the board does not give its decision within 20 days, that is deemed to be a refusal.

If the board refuses a request, it must give the reasons for its refusal and advise the applicant they have the right to make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Official Information Act 1982, section 18 – Legislation website

What information does a school need to provide?

Official information means any information held.

Official Information Act, section 2 – Legislation website

The board is required to provide information relating to internal policies and decisions. 

If a student or parent requests documents which contain policies, principles, rules or guidelines used to make decisions or recommendations about them, then the board must give them access to those documents. 

When a school makes a decision about a student, or a parent in their personal capacity, the student or parent can request a written statement of the facts and information on which the decision was based and reasons for the decision.

When deciding what information to provide, you must weigh up the privacy of individuals against the public interest.

Privacy – Office of the Ombudsman

What happens if a complaint is made to the Ombudsman?

The Ombudsman can require the board to produce any information or documents which relate to the investigation.

School boards must comply with a requirement given by the Office of the Ombudsman within 20 days.

The Office of the Ombudsman has powers of entry and there are offences for obstructing an investigation.

See also:

The OIA and school boards of trustees – Office of the Ombudsman

Updated: March 2014

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