I have already commented on the non-decisions made about the non-trial of fish-oils in Durham here. More information has come my way.
In her letter to me of 29 February, Laura Booth of the Information Commissioner’s Office wrote:-
“The Council has stated that the decision to implement the fish oil initiative was not made by the Council; it was an initiative supported by the Council, however the decision whether or not to introduce the supplement was a matter for individual schools.” [italics mine - JQH]
Quite unambiguously not a Council initiative, then. A little vague as to where the initiative came from, it implies the schools without saying so outright. I wondered whether the initiative had actually originated within Equazen, the manufacturers of the pils to be used .
Consequently I began emailing individual secondary schools in Durham. The text of my email was:-
“FAO the Head Teacher
I have been following coverage of the [fish oils initiative] both in the press and on the internet. I am not a Durham resident but I am the parent of a secondary school age child and therefore have an interest in such initiatives.
I would be most grateful if you could let me know what led to the fish oil supplements being introduced and whether or not they had the anticipated effects on the GCSE results.
Thank you in advance.
I got one reply – and most interesting it was too:-
“Thank you for your enquiry regarding the [fish oils initiative. It] was arranged by Durham County Council as a whole. I have forwarded your email onto our contact and have asked them to respond regarding your query. [italics mine - JQH]
So the decision was not made by the Council but it was arranged by Durham County Council as a whole. I’m confused.
Today I received the information the ICO did persuade Durham to cough up. It includes a letter to all Year 11 students and begins:-
“Dear Year 11 Student
Durham Year 11 Raising Achievement Initiative
You may have already heard about this new Durham initiative…”
David G Ford
Mr Ford quite rightly also wrote to parents, saying in part:-
“…Durham County Council is able to take forward its work in improving GCSE results in an exciting new way. We have formed a partnership with Equazen Ltd to provide ‘EyeQ’ Omega 3 (fish oil) supplements to pupils currently in Year 11…
A ‘Parent Information Sheet’ is included which begins:-
“This study has been developed by David Ford, Durham’s Chief Inspector for schools…”
Dr Madeleine Portwood, the Senior Educational Psychologist, also gets a name check.
A paental consent form is also included. It is headed:-
Parental Consent Form
Durham Year 11
Raising Achievement Initiative
but has an Equazen logo rather than a Durham County Council logo.
How can Durham County Council claim that the decision was not theirs when their Chief Inspector of Schools was clearly heavily involved in the initiative? Who made the decision to form a partnership with Equazen? If it is indeed true that “no written reports were prepared for senior officials or elected members in relation to the fish oil initiative” as Durham told me in February 2007, then why the hell not? Aren’t Councillors supposed to have an overview as to what their officials are doing, especially when partnerships are being formed with private companies?