The Practitioner Certificate is an established program for those with Freedom of Information responsibilities.

What's included

  • Public
  • Onsite class available
  • Practitioner
  • Pre-course reading
  • Day
  • Classroom training
  • +40 hours self-study
  • Exam preparation
  • 3 hour BCS examination

Course Overview

The BCS Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information offers an in-depth practical examination of FOI and EIR. An accepted mark of achievement, award holders, are often selected to lead disclosure practices of publicly held information within their organisation, department or authority.

This BCS accredited course explores the rights people have to know about the activities of public bodies, except where there is a valid reason for non-disclosure. It examines how transparency and openness are integral to the degree of trust and confidence placed in public authorities. And how being accountable opens debate, ultimately leading to the development of more efficient public services.

The course requires participants develop a thorough understanding of the access requirements under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations along with other associated legislation. It covers the process and mechanisms used to administer the release of information held by, or on behalf of, government departments and public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Delivered over 5-days the course follows the latest BCS Syllabus. Participants will also receive a separate 1-day course to help prepare for the BCS Practitioner Exam. The BCS exam is a 3-hour closed-book examination comprising three sections.

Who should attend

This course is intended for:

  • Freedom of Information Managers
  • Environmental Information Regulations Managers
  • Information Governance (IG) and Information Assurance (IA) professionals (all grades)
  • Records Managers working in the public sector
  • Data Protection Officers working within the public sector
  • FOI lead officers within an industry sector carrying out a public function or service e.g. Utilities & Housing Authorities
  • Lead FOI officers within relevant public-private partnerships
  • Solicitors advising on information law and press officers

By obtaining the Practitioner Certificate, individuals will:

  • Hold the leading practitioner level accredited qualification in Freedom of Information
  • Develop a deep appreciation of FOI in its widest context, its interaction with EIRs, DPA and other associated legislation
  • Have the confidence to lead organisational compliance for both FOI and EIR
  • Be able to give advice and support on relevant information handling standards and frameworks
  • Understand the types of information likely to be requested along with those required to be made available within a Publication Scheme
  • Be equipped to develop Freedom of Information policies that cover the processing and monitoring of:
    • the receipt of a new information request through to disclosure, and
    • the application of appropriate legal exemptions or exceptions from disclosure and the public interest test
    • the calculation of fees where applicable

The BCS Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of information aligns with the vocational qualification QCF Level 4. Note, this link is advisory and for comparison purposes only. Ofqual does not regulate BCS qualifications.


The BCS Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information course is conducted over 5 consecutive days.

The following schedule is intended as a guide:

Day 1 9:15 Introduction & Housekeeping
9:30 Course Aims - Examination details and technique
9:45 How to read an Act of Parliament
10:00 Historical Overview and background
10:15 International Aspects
10:30 Morning refreshments
10:45 Definitions and Scope Part 1 - Duties of the Act
11:45 Definitions and Scope Part 2 - Who the Act affects and application
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Definitions and Scope Part 2 cont.
15:00 Afternoon tea
15:15 Definitions and Scope Part 2 cont.
15:45 Multipe choice exercise
16:00 Held Information exercise
Day 2 9:00 Review and questions
9:20 Part 3 Obligations and Responsibilities - Access Rights Introduction of Section 45 Code of Practice and FOI Act
- Valid Requests, Logging and Clarification
10:30 Morning refreshments
10:45 Vexatious and Repeated requests
- Redaction, Refusals and Failure to locate
- Advice and Assistance, Transfers
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Consulting 3rd Parties and Devolved Governments
- Copyright and IPR
- Fees Regulations
14:30 Afternoon tea
14:45 Time Deadlines
15:15 Case study exercise
15:45 Introduction to EIR Code of Practice
- Main differences between EIR and FOI
Homework Practice exercises and case studies
Day 3 9:00 Review and questions
9:15 Code of Practice/Regulations EIR on Access
10:30 Morning refreshments
10:45 Code of Practice/Regulations EIR on Access Cont.
11:00 Obligations and Responsibilities Part 2 - Section 46 Records Management Code of Practice
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Records Management cont.
14:30 Afternoon tea
15:00 Historical Records - CRAG Act, Historical records after 20 years
14:45 Origins and Responsibilities Part 3 - Publication Scheme
Homework Practice exercises and case studies
Day 4 9:00 Review and questions
9:20 Obligations and Responsibilities Part 4
- Harm Test
- PIT - Examples of Arguments for and against
- Practical exercise
10:30 Morning refreshments
10:45 Absolute Exemptions
12:30 Lunch
13:15 Qualified Exemptions
14:30 Afternoon tea
14:45 Qualified Exemptions cont.
15:45 BCS sample case study
Homework Practice exercises and case studies
Day 5 9:00 Review and questions
- Ministerial Certificates
- Ministerial Override Section 53
- Obligations and Responsibilities Part 5 Enforcement and Appeals
- Role, powers and responsibilities of the ICO
- Undertakings and Assessments
10:30 Morning refreshments
10:45 Practice Recommendations
  Decision, Information and Enforcement Notices
  FOI Offences - Section 77/Warrant Offences Appeals
12:30 Lunch
12:45 Obligations and Responsibilities Part 6 - EIR Exceptions Reg 12(4) and 12(5)
14:30 Afternoon tea
14:45 Complete EIR Exceptions
15:30 Obligations and Responsibilities Part 7 - Related Legislation
- Re-Use of Public Sector Information
- Inspire
- Data Protection Act
16:45 Questions and Answers
  • Preliminary
    • Course Aims
    • Exam Technique and format
    • Course syllabus and reading the Act
  • History and Origins including
    • Local Government Act ’72 and 2000
    • Data Protection Act ’84 and ‘98
    • Access to Information Act ‘95
    • Official Secrets Act ‘89
    • Access to Health Act ‘90
    • Environmental Information Act ’92 and ‘03
    • Constitutional Reform and Governance Act ‘10
    • Protection of Freedoms Act ‘12
  • International Aspects of FOI
    • Non-Common-law legislation
    • Common Law based legal systems
  • Definitions and Scope of FOIA
    • What the Act does
    • How DPA – EIR – FOI work together
  • Application
    • Schedule one listings
    • Amending Schedule one by Order
    • Designated under Section 5
      • By Sec of State
      • Under Contract
    • Publically owned Companies
    • Companies with limited application
    • Held Information
      • Building blocks
      • The private sector
    • Applicants
      • Rights
  • Means of Communication
    • Preferred format
    • Datasets
    • Re-use of public sector information
  • Freedom of Information -Access Rights
    • Code of Practice Section 45
    • Requests for information -Valid requests
      • Twitter
      • Documents – copy of original
      • E-mail requests
    • Applicant and motive blind
      • Exceptions
    • Multiple requests
    • Logging requests
    • Further Clarification
    • Vexatious and repeated requests
    • Redactions
    • Refusals
    • Failure to locate information
    • Duty to give Advice and Assistance
    • Transferring information
    • Third Party consultations and Devolved administrations
    • Copyright and intellectual property rights
      • Crown Copyright
      • Third party copyright
      • Copyright Designs and Patents Act ‘88
    • Fees Regulations
      • Appropriate limits
      • Estimates
      • Prescribed costs
      • Disbursements (Communication Costs)
      • Other legislations
      • Datasets and Re-use of PSI
      • Pre-payment
    • Timelines
      • The Interpretation Act ‘78
      • Statutory Instrument 3364 – extensions
      • Duty to give notice
  • Environmental Information Regulations Access Rights
    • EIR Code of Practice
      • Aims
      • Differences between FOI and EIR
      • Dissemination of Information
    • Duty to give Advice and Assistance
      • Requests that are too general
      • Clarifying Requests
    • Form and Format
    • Timelines
    • Charges
    • Public Sector Contracts
      • Consultations and Devolved Administrations
      • Refusals
  • Records Management Code of Practice
    • Benefits for good and risks from poor records management
  • RM Code of Practice -Action points
    • Function
    • Policy
    • Systems
    • Storage and maintenance
    • Security and Access
    • Disposal
    • Collaborative work and outsourcing
    • Monitoring and reporting
  • Historical Records
    • Public Records Act 1958
    • Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010
  • Publication Schemes
    • Definition Documents
    • Model scheme
    • Seven classes
    • Charging
  • Disclosures and Non-disclosures
    • Absolute, part Absolute and Qualified Exemptions
    • Harm Test
    • Public Interest Test
  • Absolute and part Absolute Exemptions
    • Information accessible by other means
    • Information supplied by or relating to bodies dealing with security matters
    • Court Records
    • Parliamentary Privilege
    • Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs
    • Communications with Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family
    • Personal Data
    • Information Provided in Confidence
      • Common Law of Confidentiality
    • Prohibitions on Disclosure
  • Qualified Exemptions
    • Information intended for future publication and research
    • National security
    • Defence
    • International Relations
    • Relations within the UK
    • The Economy
    • Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
    • Law Enforcement
    • Audit Function
    • Formulation of Government Policy
    • Health and Safety
    • Environmental Information Regulations
    • Legal Professional Privilege
    • Commercial Interests
  • Removal of Exemptions
  • Ministerial Certificates and overrides
  • Enforcement and Appeals
    • Role of the Commissioner
    • Undertakings and Assessments
    • Practice Recommendations
    • Decision, Information and Enforcement Notices
  • Offences
    • Altering Records
    • Warrant offences
    • Contempt of Court
  • Appeals
    • Internal reviews
    • Appeals to the ICO
  • Roles and Powers of the TGRC (Information Rights Tribunal)
    • Appeals to the First Tier and second Tier Tribunals
    • Judicial Reviews
  • Role of the Sponsoring Government Department
    • Secondary legislation
    • Guidance
  • Environmental Information Regulations
    • Scope and Definitions
    • Review and Complaints procedure
    • Regulation 12 Exceptions
      • Stand-alone Exceptions
      • Disclosure would Adversely Affect Exceptions
    • Enforcement
  • Related Legislation
    • Re-use of Public Sector Information 2015
    • Data Protection Act ‘98

Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information (PC-FOI) Syllabus

This professional certification is not regulated by the following United Kingdom Regulators - Ofqual, Qualification in Wales, CCEA or SQA.

1. Context: Origins and Background (1.0 hours of course work)

The objective is to ensure an understanding of the purpose of the legislation. It is recommended that only one hour of study is spent on this topic. This depth of study can only serve as an overview of this topic. However, it should develop an appreciation of the intentions of Government to promote openness and transparency in public institutions which are relevant to the consideration of the public interest in disclosure decisions.

2. Definitions and Scope of the Legislation (5 hours of course work)

A. What the legislation does:

  • Imposes a duty to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme
  • Provides a right of access to recorded information held by public authorities, without the need to mention, or even know about, the Act
  • Imposes the obligation, in most cases, to confirm or deny whether the information is held by the public authority
  • Creates exemptions from the duty to disclose information
  • Establishes the arrangements for enforcement and appeal
  • Requires Ministers to publish Codes of Practice

B. Application of the FOIA:

  • Bodies included in Schedule 1 of the Act itself
  • By order amending Schedule 1. Provision of available examples
  • By order adding any person that exercises functions of a public nature or is providing under a contract with a public authority any service whose provision is a function of that authority
  • Publicly owned company (including any corporate body)

C. FOIA and the private sector:

  • Information held on behalf of a public authority
  • Organisations designated as exercising a public function
  • Private companies whose information is held by a public authority

D. Who may apply and for what?

  • The applicant - any natural or legal person of any nationality, living anywhere, for any reason
  • Recorded information “held” by a public authority
  • To be supplied in a “preferred” format
3. Obligations and Responsibilities (10 hours of course work)

A. Good Practice:

  • Discharge of Functions Code of Practice (s45 FOIA)
  • Records Management Code of Practice (s46 FOIA)

B. Publication Schemes:

  • Duty to adopt and maintain an approved Publication Scheme
  • Model schemes and bespoke schemes
  • Charging policy
  • Duty to publish information in accordance with that Scheme (printed publications, public registers, web pages)
  • Duty to review the Scheme

C. Access rights:

  • Criteria for a valid request
  • Giving advice and assistance
  • Clarification of requests
  • Vexatious or repeated requests
  • Consulting third parties
  • Transferring requests
  • Duty to confirm or deny
  • Duty to provide information subject to application of exemptions from disclosure
  • Responses – supplying requested information and refusals
  • Historical records
  • Copyright/intellectual property rights

D. Fees Regulations/Costs under FOIA:

  • Fees Regulations made under the Act
  • Fees Notices and prepayment

E. Time deadlines:

  • Regulations made under the Act
  • Variations and extensions under the Act
4. Disclosure/Non-disclosure (12 hours of course work)

Exemptions from disclosure

  • Absolute versus non-absolute exemptions
  • Class based exemptions
  • Prejudice tests
  • Public interest test
  • Ministerial certificates (under section 24, 25 and 53 of the FOIA)
  • Common law duty of confidence
  • Removal of exemptions: historical records
5. Enforcement and Appeals (2 hours of course work)

Enforcement powers:

  • Role and powers of the Information Commissioner
  • Information, Decision and Enforcement notices
  • Practice Recommendations


  • Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure
  • Offences of obstruction, execution and warrant


  • Internal review
  • Appeal to ICO
  • Appeal against notices of the ICO
  • Appeal to First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
  • Roles and powers of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights)
  • Appeals to the High Court
6. Environmental Information Regulations (6 Hours of course work)
  • Scope of the Regulations (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Definition of environmental information
  • Code of Practice relating to the Regulations
  • Interface with Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation
  • Obligations imposed by the Regulations
  • Access rights: who may apply and for what
  • Time deadlines and related provisions
  • Charges for provision of environmental information
  • Exceptions from disclosure
  • Enforcement
7. Related Legislation (4 hours of course work)

A. Data Protection Act 1998

  • Definition of personal data
  • Sections 7 and 10 of the Data Protection Act 1998
  • Interface between Data Protection Act 1998 and FOIA
  • Amendments to Data Protection Act 1998 that relate to FOIA

B. Basic awareness and outline knowledge of the following, including their impact on FOIA:

  • Official Secrets Act 1989
  • Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985
  • Local Government Act 1972
  • Local Government Act 2000
  • Access to Health Records Act 1990
  • The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005

The full BCS PC-FOI Syllabus can be viewed here syllabus on the BCS website.

Exam Preparation Day

The topics covered in this session include:

Part 1. Online discussion and presentation

  • Exam technique
  • Timing
  • Completing the exam paperwork
  • How to break down BCS exam questions
    • Reading questions properly
    • Answering questions correctly
  • Exercises
  • Group discussion, 3 example questions

Part 2. Mock exam

  • 1 1/2 hour mock exam (50% of the exam paper)

Part 3. Discussion, Q&A, review of the mock exam

  • Group discussion, mock exam answers

Following the examination prep day, the instructor will evaluate each student’s mock paper and provide individual feedback. This will include direct comments on the answers, exam technique and offer guidance for further study areas.

Duration and Format of the Examination

The examination is a three-hour closed-book examination comprising three sections. The format is as follows with a balance of questions across the syllabus.


Section A:  10 multiple choice questions (1 mark each). All questions to be attempted.
Section B:  8 short answer bullet point questions (5 marks each). All questions to be attempted.
Section C: 6 essay questions from which the candidate must select two (15 marks each) and a compulsory Case Study (20 marks). The essay questions set out a practical or theoretical scenario and need to be answered in a methodical way as though you were briefing your chief executive on an FOI request.

The examination is held independently of the accredited course.

Pass Mark

The pass mark is 50/100. This equates to 50%


Distinctions will be awarded to candidates who achieve 80 or more.

Format of the Examination

  • 10% multiple choice
  • 40% short bullet point answers
  • 50% discursive essays
Duration 3 Hours. An additional 45 minutes will be allowed for candidates sitting the examination in a language that is not their native language
Invigilated Yes
Open Book No
Pass Mark 50/100 (50%)
Distinction Mark 80/100 (80%)
Calculators Calculators cannot be used during this examination
Delivery Paper based examination only

Additional time for candidates requiring Reasonable Adjustments

Candidates may request additional time if they require reasonable adjustments. Please refer to the reasonable adjustments policy for detailed information on how and when to apply.

Additional time for candidates whose language is not the language of the exam

An additional 25% (45 minutes) will be allowed for candidates sitting the examination in a language that is not their mother tongue. If the examination is taken in a language that is not the candidate’s native/official language, then they are entitled to use their own paper language dictionary (whose purpose is translation between the examination language and another national language) during the examination. Electronic versions of dictionaries will not be allowed into the examination room.

The full BCS PC-FOI Syllabus can be viewed here syllabus on the BCS website.

Course dates

Code Course Start Duration Location Booking
PC-FOI BCS Practitioner Certificate in Freedom of Information 19 Feb 18 5 days Bedford Book now
11 Jun 18 5 days Bedford Book now
29 Oct 18 5 days Bedford Book now

Examination Events

When booking onto one of the above course dates, you will be asked to select the dates for your examination events.

Exam preparation day Date Duration Format
We recommend choosing a date 4-8 weeks after attending the course. 15 Mar 18 1 day online
26 Jul 18 1 day online
6 Dec 18 1 day online
BCS exam Date Duration Location
We recommend booking onto a BCS Exam 4 to 6 weeks after preparation day. 28 Mar 18 ½ day Bedford
30 Aug 18 ½ day Bedford
17 Jan 19 ½ day Bedford

Onsite option

If you have a team of 3 or more, we can deliver the training at your location.

Let us know when you have in mind and the size of your group.

Ask about an Onsite Course

What our customers have to say

  • Good overall structure, well paced and easy going and personable tutor.

    Thoroughly enjoyable

    Prakash Mistry
  • Joyce is a fantastic tutor who thoroughly knows her subject and made a very dry course incredibly enjoyable. The delivery and materials are excellent and I will be recommending Freevacy for future use.

    Caroline Higton
  • Joyce made the course very interesting and will help me a lot with my job.

    Diane Ahearn
  • Joyce is very knowledgeable and patient when dealing with all our queries and questions. Very good course.

    Christine Elliott
  • The tutor made the course very interesting.

    Lorna Geach
  • Thank you Joyce @ Freevacy - Excellent knowledge and delivery.

    Pete Cokell
  • We needed in-house DP and FOI training for the whole team – both the “old hands” and the new learners. Freevacy offered us sessions on-site, plus supported revision up to the exam. The trainer directed learning at the right level for each person, with 100% success.

    Robert Beane, Veritau Ltd