The Teaching Council and the 'Irish Independent'
THE Press Ombudsman has decided to uphold a complaint by the Teaching Council that two articles in the Irish Independent on November 22, 2011, and December 16, 2011, about a survey conducted by the Teaching Council on maths teachers in secondary schools breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.
The Teaching Council complained about statements in both articles that it had delayed in carrying out a survey on maths teachers until five months after it had been requested to do so by the Minister for Education. While the newspaper accepted that a request for a survey to be carried out was made on September 1, 2011, it maintained that a ministerial spokesman had stated publicly that the minister had first requested this in April.
The evidence is clear that in April 2011 the minister had suggested to the Council that it "might wish to advise" his department on a number of issues relating to teacher supply. The newspaper published this information and added an interpretation of this suggestion -- ascribed to a ministerial spokesman whom it did not quote directly but paraphrased -- as a formal request for an audit of second-level schools. It is equally clear, however, that no formal request was made by the department for a survey until September 2011.
In the light of this evidence, the newspaper's misinterpretation -- or misunderstanding -- of the content and significance of, and the relationship between, these two events was inaccurate, and the complaint under Principle 1 is therefore upheld.
A complaint that a statement in the article published on November 22 to the effect that the Council had done a "secret deal" with secondary schools to keep some of the details of the survey "under wraps", was also misleading. A covering note issued by the Teaching Council with the request for information relating to the survey advised schools that the data was being collected for statistical purposes only, and that details about individual schools would not be published by the Council. This was evidence of a procedural and technical assurance, not evidence of a secret deal between the schools and the Council, and this part of the complaint is also upheld.
Further complaints that the articles breached Principles 1 and 3 were not upheld. The full decision can be accessed at www.pressombudsman.ie.