BBC Complaint 26.9.18: School Exclusions


On Tuesday 24th September 2018 at 06:26am and repeated five times by 09.00am, BBC Scotland headlined:

‘A report commissioned by three charities suggests that over a third of children with autism have been unlawfully excluded from school in the past two years.’

This is an incorrect reading of the report suggesting 37% of all children with autism, with the effect of seriously exaggerating their evidence. On page 19, the report says:

‘We described unlawful exclusions to respondents as when a child has been sent home from school or asked not to attend, without being formally excluded (e.g. school asking parents to pick up their child early). 37% (n=478) of parents who responded to this question told us that their child had been excluded in this way.’ 

Note that 37% of the 478 parents who responded (176) indicated ‘unlawful’ exclusion. The full sample was 1 434 and that was thought to be around 10% of the total population of autistic pupils in Scotland (page 14).

So, more accurately and thus more informatively for the TV audience, the headline should have said:

‘A report commissioned by three charities suggests that over a third of the 478 children with autism whose parents responded have been unlawfully excluded from school in the past two years.’

More helpfully, the percentage should have been changed to 12% of those who took part in the research and the size of the sample, 10% of the total population, should have featured in the report.

More helpfully still, the deeply flawed research should not have been reported. See this for a full assessment of it:




7 thoughts on “BBC Complaint 26.9.18: School Exclusions

  1. Contrary September 26, 2018 / 6:56 am

    Quite. The ‘researchers’ appear to have had no training, and it’s pretty bad that they would produce a report like this. But even worse, the BBC staff should be trained in how to interpret surveys like this and should have reported how bad it was – not reporting the researchers’ flawed conclusions! Is this the quality we should be expecting? The BBC are lowering the tone and quality of discourse, they should be ashamed of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alasdair Macdonald September 26, 2018 / 7:46 am

    It is clear that the ‘report’ was a piece of campaign propaganda by the charity concerned. As is common with a lot of these campaigns, stark and exaggerated language is used, presumably in the hope of evoking a sense of outrage in the general population, which, in turn, will provoke some to put pressure on government and councils. I do not think that this is a particularly effective strategy for a number of reasons – people are not stupid and can detect when attempts are being made to hoodwink, there is the ‘crying wolf’ problem that we learned at our mothers’ knees, there is the issue of honesty when people are being asked to give money, there is the insult to people who are working in the field and doing their best, and, there is the plain nastiness of the language used.

    They know that the media will pick up the story, but, the media are doing this for their own reasons and not primarily out of altruism for the people who have the disability or their parents and carers. I disagree with Contrary that ‘BBC staff should be trained’: they ARE trained, but in presenting a particular narrative which is generally hostile to public services (despite being a public service itself) and hostile to the Scottish Government.

    It is important and humanely right that we should do what reasonably can be done to maximise access by people with disabilities to education and other services. However, this always has to be conditional in being within reasonable expenditure limits at the time and without significantly adversely affecting other people. In my experience, putting in place measures which facilitate access for people with disabilities generally benefit most people. Inclusive policies also benefit the majority of the population whose humanity is often stimulated and enhanced.

    However, for some individuals inclusion can be too difficult to achieve for significant periods of time and, their presence can have a detrimental effect on others. There is a need to have some withdrawal facility, preferably, on site, to which the person with disability can go for short periods. However, this requires both space, personal and resources and these can then raise questions about ‘reasonable’ expenditure. In the case of schools, sometimes the child has to be out of school for some time because it is not in the individual’s best interest to remain, or if it is having a seriously detrimental effect on the education of others or is presenting a physical danger to other people, both pupils and staff. In many cases, such withdrawals can be negotiated amicably.

    However, since there are rules about rights to education and a formal process of exclusion then, if amicable agreement cannot be achieved, a formal procedure can be invoked. When that happens and legal services and trade unions become involved, there can be a circling of the wagons out of self protection and the preparedness to try things out is curtailed. So, invoking formal procedures can be in the nest interests of either side. There have of course been misuses of the exclusion system by some schools over the years and, because of the thrawnness of some parents, these indefensible practices have been challenged – rightly! However, the thrawnness can become pig-headedness, unreasonableness and aggression and this can lose public support.

    It is a complex issue which requires sensitive negotiation and an absence of malice. This ‘report’ and the BBC’s reportage of it has been like a bull in a china shop and has probably done a disservice to children with autism.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ludo Thierry September 26, 2018 / 7:51 am

    Hi John – apols for going OT but you did seem to suggest that someone should pick out some detail from yesterday’s data release from the Chief Statistician re. the Scottish Health survey 2017. So here goes. There are fuller details at the site:


    Please note – There are various good numbers which I’m not quoting because they represent year-on-year change. I have only picked out numbers which show some continuing change over a reasonable time frame. Making changes in Public Health is a very long-term project. There is often some low-hanging fruit to be picked – but making sustained change over longer time-frames is indicative of a focussed and energetic approach by the lead Dept. and good feedback processes within the teams involved in National and Local delivery. My contention is that the figures reiterate that a focussed and energetic SNP Scottish Govt is beginning to deliver some real and major impacts in this area:

    SMOKING: The proportion of adults smoking has fallen to 18 per cent, down from 21 per cent in 2016 and 28 per cent in 2003. The proportion of adults that have never smoked increased to 56 per cent (from 50 per cent in 2003).

    The proportion of non-smoking adults exposed to second-hand smoke (based on detectable salivary cotinine) also declined significantly from 85 per cent in 2003 to 24 per cent in 2016/2017. The proportion of children exposed to second-hand smoke in the home (6 per cent) remained at a similar level to 2015 and 2016 (6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively) following a drop from 11 per cent in 2014.

    OBESITY: Prevalence of children at risk of obesity in 2017 was 13 per cent, with levels showing a steady decline since 2014 (levels were 16-17 per cent between 2003 and 2014).

    ALCOHOL: Twenty four per cent of adults drank at hazardous or harmful levels in 2017, down from 34 per cent in 2003. The proportion of adults saying they did not drink alcohol increased to 17 per cent (from 11 per cent in 2003).

    DENTITION: The proportion of adults with 20 or more natural teeth increased (by 5-7 percentage points) in each deprivation quintile between 2008 and 2017. However there is still a gap between the most deprived (65%) and least deprived areas (86%).

    GAMBLING: Adult gambling activity participation decreased from 70 per cent in 2012 to 63 per cent in 2017; largely driven by a decrease in National Lottery participation from 58 per cent in 2012 to 46 per cent in 2017.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. John September 26, 2018 / 8:11 am

    Thanks for that John , time the BBC were once again pulled up by the bootlaces to get their facts right . For the researchers to do their research properly , are they given enough time to analyse their findings , maybe not , (because that report is to be the SNP baad story of the day ) , or are they incompetent , or , perhaps once it leaves their hands is it doctored to make it INTO the SNP baad story of the day , I suspect it’s the latter ! ..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Scott September 26, 2018 / 10:33 am

    RE the BBC John I thought you might might like to have a laugh part of a reply from BBC regarding Scotland’s political leaders.

    We also note your comments on door-stepping. We regularly interview political leaders from all parties; we treat them all in a similar fashion; and we follow the BBC Editorial Guidelines on door-stepping. All of our recent interviews with the First Minister have taken place in circumstances where she had agreed in advance to give an on-camera interview.

    Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

    As you can see only the FM is mentioned nothing about RD not being able to appear on GMS,did FM agree when Glen Campbell was seen chasing her about Michelle Thomson.

    Double standards I say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • johnrobertson834 September 26, 2018 / 2:14 pm

      Indeed. When i complained several times in 2014, I noted the department was based in Darlington!


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