The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have ruled that the Grammar School Heads Association (GSHA) is not a public authority for the purposes of Freedom of Information requests. The association were asked to release their financial statements and a list of donors, but the ICO ruled that the organisation does not have to provide this information.
In their response to the original freedom of information request, the GSHA did not deny that they are effectively funded by the taxpayer. Grammar school heads each pay annual fees to join the association and it is likely this comes from state school budgets. In her request to the GSHA, Rebecca Hickman, Vice Chair of Comprehensive Future, argued that the for this reason the GSHA should be fully accountable to the public on how they spend their money.
Rebecca Hickman of Comprehensive Future said, “The recent political campaign to expand selective education involved the influential Grammar School Heads Association meeting senior politicians and Department for Education officials. It is unacceptable that a selective education lobby group is funded by our taxes and able to exercise back-room influence over government policy, but has no accountability or transparency whatsoever.”
The Grammar School Heads Association offers membership perks including complementary membership of the exclusive, £975 a year, Lansdowne Club in Mayfair, plus regular free conferences and seminars. The association’s website describes its work as, ‘Forging links with national policy makers and educational organisations’ and, ‘promoting and celebrating Grammar Schools.’ The association’s heads recently promoted selective schools at a House of Commons champagne reception attended by Theresa May.
Rebecca Hickman said, “Education policy should be evidence-led, but when organisations like the GSHA have disproportionate access and influence, with a clear agenda and no accountability, bad policy becomes more likely. It is highly dubious that school budgets are being diverted in this way – particularly when many of these grammar schools are complaining that they are underfunded.”
Comprehensive Future have asked the GSHA to voluntarily reveal the information in the interests of transparency and openness.