00579-20 Westmorland v

    • Date complaint received

      7th May 2020

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee -- 00579-20 Westmorland v

Summary of Complaint

1. Frazer Westmorland complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in: 

  • an article headlined “Every primary school in Kent ranked from best to worst in the Real Schools Guide”, published on 5 January 2020.  
  • an article headlined “Real Schools Guide 2020: Every primary school in Kent ranked from best to worst”, published on 14 January 2020.

2. The first article reported on the publication’s “Real Schools Guide” which compiled data in order to rank state-funded primary schools in Kent. The article reported that the “latest version [of the Guide] was released in June 2019”. It went on to explain the methodology of the guide and the 44 data points referenced, such as Key Stage 2 results, pupil-teacher ratios and absence rates. The article reported that Key Stage 2 performance was monitored by how many pupils were reaching the expected, or higher, standards “in 2018 and how it compare[d] to 2017”. It then went on to list the top and bottom schools in Kent, when compared by this ranking methodology.

3. The second article was published nine days later, and revealed the results of the Real Schools Guide 2020. This article also included the rankings based on the new data and the methodology as to how the guide was compiled. It stated that Key Stage 2 performance was considered and was based on how many pupils were reaching the expected, or higher, standards “in 2019 and how it compare[d] to 2017”.

4. The complainant said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because the first article did not make clear that the Key Stage 2 data was from 2018, and was therefore a year and a half out of date from when the articles were published. He acknowledged that the date of the data was included in the first article, but found that this was too far down within the article and was therefore misleading. He also said that it was misleading to describe the schools as the “best” and “worst” based on the narrow range of data acquired by the Guide, and that “highest and lowest ranked” would be more accurate.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said that the second article did include the 2019 Key Stage 2 data. It said the first article had not, but it had not been available at that time, and once the more recent data had become available the article had been updated. In any event, the publication said that the complainant had acknowledged that this information was included in both of the articles. Additionally, it said that the decision to refer to the schools as “best” and “worst” was an editorial decision which was not inaccurate within the context of the article, which made clear it was about the Best Schools Guide. 

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee found that where each of the articles clearly stated the methodology for the Real Schools Guide and both indicated which year the relevant Key Stage 2 results came from, the article was not inaccurate. It also found that the terms “best” and “worst” was a matter of editorial discretion, and were not misleading in the context of an article which clearly stated the basis for these rankings. There was no breach of Clause 1.


8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

9. N/A


Date complaint received: 31/01/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/04/2020