Ruling

Resolution Statement 07899-18 The Bicester School v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      28th March 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 07899-18 The Bicester School v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. The Bicester School complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Scrooge school’s cardy rap”, published on 15 December 2018.

2. The article reported that teachers had been “labelled ’miserable Scrooges’ after banning children from Christmas Jumper Day for having poor grades”. It said that children at The Bicester School were banned from taking part “unless they achieved ‘the right number of Cs’”. The article included critical comments from parents, and a response from the “unrepentant” head teacher, who said that the school was “’always looking for fresh ways to motivate our students’”.

3. A longer version of the article also appeared online, on 13 December, under the headline “GRINCH STOLE XMAS: Scrooge teachers ban kids from wearing Christmas JUMPERS to school if their grades aren’t good enough”. This version of the article repeated the claim that the school had banned children from wearing Christmas jumpers “if their grades aren’t good enough”. It said that the school had said that “pupils who failed to hit necessary academic targets” would be prevented from taking part in the day. A caption on a photograph of the school stated that it had “banned pupils not meeting academic targets from taking part”. A caption on an image of the school logo stated that the school had warned that “under-achievers will be made to wear school uniform”.

4. The online article also included parents’ responses to the suggestion that children would be excluded from the event for “’not getting the right number of Cs’”. One parent was quoted as stating that the idea “’makes [the pupils] look like dunces who have to sit in the corner in their uniforms for not being clever enough. The kids who will be allowed to wear Christmas jumpers will feel like the clever ones’”. The article then stated that the school stood by its decision, and explained that “a behavioural system used in the school gives pupils Cs in relation to their actions and those who did not achieve the required number won’t be allowed to take part”. A response from the school’s head teacher stated that the non-uniform day was “’a reward for exemplary effort and behaviour’”.

5. The complainant said that the articles were misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because the ‘reward’ of wearing a Christmas jumper was not contingent on academic success, but on good behaviour. It said that the references to “grades” in both articles, and to “academic targets” in the online article, were therefore misleading. It said that, consequently, it was also misleading for the online article to include a comment from a parent which referred to “’dunces’” and “’not being clever enough’”.

6. The publication said that it had received the story from two news agencies, and had published it in good faith. On receiving a complaint, the publication removed the online article. It also offered to publish the following correction online, in its corrections and clarifications column:

An article headlined "GRINCH STOLE XMAS Scrooge teachers ban kids from wearing Christmas JUMPERS to school if their grades aren't good enough" was inaccurate as the students were in fact banned from wearing Christmas jumpers if they did not meet required behavioural standards, as opposed to academic ones. We are happy to set the record straight, and apologise for any contrary impression given.

It also offered to publish the following clarification in print:

An article headlined "Scrooge school's cardy rap" (15 Dec) should have said that students at Bicester School were banned from wearing Christmas jumpers if they did not meet required behavioural standards, as opposed to academic ones. We are happy to clarify, and apologise for any contrary impression given.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

Mediated outcome

8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

9. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to send the school a private letter of apology, and to publish the following correction online:

An article headlined "GRINCH STOLE XMAS Scrooge teachers ban kids from wearing Christmas JUMPERS to school if their grades aren't good enough" was inaccurate as the students were in fact banned from wearing Christmas jumpers if they did not meet required behavioural standards, as opposed to academic ones. The school also disputed a quotation included in the article, which had been provided by an agency and repeated the inaccurate suggestion that the ban was for not achieving certain academic grades. We are happy to set the record straight, and apologise for any contrary impression given.

It also offered to publish the following correction in print:

AN article headlined "Scrooge school's cardy rap" (Dec 15) should have said that students at Bicester School were banned from wearing Christmas jumpers if they did not meet required behavioural standards, as opposed to academic ones. We are happy to clarify, and apologise for any contrary impression given.

10. The complainant said this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.

11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 28/01/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 22/02/2019