Posted by sim-o
January 6th, 2011
Back in September FullFact.org looked into the claims of the press of how many children had been mis-diagnosed as having special educational needs (SEN). This was because throughout the press there was several different claims all arising from the same OfSted report.
Full Fact came to the conclusion that about 457,000 children had been mis-diagnosed, not to belittle that number but it is significantly different to the 700,000 – 750,000 that these three papers claimed.
Mistakes happen. These reports are not usually the easiest things to read and interpret (for me at least). Given that an error in reporting of this size could influence any future debate about the subject (there has been some recent debates where SEN was raised), and being good public spirited citizens, Full Fact contacted the gang of three and explained where they had gone wrong with their figures.
I should mention that Full Fact, once they had done their adding and subtracting, went to Ofsted for clarification and to make sure they had infact got it right. Full Fact were correct in their workings and the figure of up to 750,000 children being mis-diagnosed with SEN is wrong, although Ofsted would only agree privately and not publicly. Ofsted only said anything publicly after a Parliamentary Question (.pdf) was asked.
By the time November had come round Full Fact had given…
…almost two months of concerted, polite effort on the part of Full Fact to remove inaccurate figures from the debate the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent still refuse to correct their stories. Indeed, the Independent and the Mail both repeated the claim. They say they will not correct except at the request of Ofsted themselves.
This is a clear breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which demands that “a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence…”
So, with the Mail, Independent and the Telegraph sticking to their mis-informed guns dispite clear accurate proof that their figures were seriously inflating an already serious number of SEN mis-diagnoses, off Full Fact went to the PCC.
Fast forward a month to December and Full Fact have another update. After initially refusing to get off it’s arse, due to those being directly involved, Ofsted, not making the complaint, the PCC accepted the complaint from Full Fact and the online articles have now been corrected and a note explaining why. Two out of the three articles have been corrected, at least.
The Independent and The Telegraph have both updated their articles but sadly the Daily Mail, being a true rebel, hasn’t.
The Daily Mail, in the face of the correct figures, Ofsted claiming publicly, albeit forced to, that the figures the mail has used in it’s story are incorrect and the PCC telling it it is wrong and should issue a correction, is still sticking with the wrong numbers. Full Fact explain why…
However the Mail’s response to the PCC argued that based on the information in the report and the press briefing, the figure was valid – and made only more so by the use of qualifiers such as “up to”.
We feel that even if the use of the higher figure was reasonable based on the briefing, this is no grounds not to correct the story in light of the later clarification.
Exactly. Fine, the Mail came to the wrong conclusion like others did, but why, when new information comes to light, shouldn’t it update/correct itself? Answers on a postcard please, to Northcliffe House, London.