Is this a first? Reporting Scotland’s editor apologises fully for errors in reporting on alleged school exclusions of children with autism

At least I think they’ve apologised. Is it maybe a tease?

Here’s my original complaint:

Full Complaint: 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:

Here’s the BBC response:

Dear Professor Robertson

Reference CAS-5101273-HLBVZ3

Thank you for your correspondence. Your comments were passed to the Editor of Reporting Scotland, who has asked that I forward her response as follows:

“Thank you for being in touch about Reporting Scotland on the morning of 24th September. You have raised concerns which I share about a report on a survey of parents and carers of autistic children. In retrospect we should not have carried this story in the way that we did and I apologise for that. I am taking steps to try to ensure that we do not do so again with similar stories. I believe that this was an honest mistake and that there was certainly no intention to mislead our audience, but that does not detract from the fact that we got it wrong. I am grateful to you for taking the time and the trouble to explain the reasons for your concern.”

While few of us would believe that this was an honest mistake, it’s certainly the first time I’ve had an apology of any kind!

Am I missing something here?


18 thoughts on “Is this a first? Reporting Scotland’s editor apologises fully for errors in reporting on alleged school exclusions of children with autism

  1. William Henderson October 10, 2018 / 4:07 pm

    Well done, John!

    Although it’s not admitted, their mistake is summed up in your sentence “More helpfully still, the deeply flawed research should not have been reported.”

    Self-respect, if nothing else, should have stopped a national media outlet from basing a piece on research which itself declared its flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ludo Thierry October 10, 2018 / 4:37 pm

    Golly – that is undoubtedly an ‘apology’ – Anyway one tries to cut it “..I apologise for that…” and “..we got it wrong.” = Beeb Scotland Apology. – That is a remarkable piece of work John – Well done to you, sir. Well done indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gerry Roberrtson October 10, 2018 / 6:14 pm

    Anyone tuning into BBC2 to see Nicola’s speech yesterday will have noticed albeit briefly a caption about the FM’s ‘perceived distractions’ in the previous few months by showing a clip of her and Michelle Thomson walking along the street together. I guess just another slight of hand ‘mistake’. There may well be some decent people working in the BBC Scotland but on the whole they really are a disgrace and I would be ashamed and embarrassed working for such a dishonest and deceitful organisation.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Raghnall October 10, 2018 / 8:08 pm

    Did they report their apology on Distorting Scotland? Just asking because I never watch it.
    If not, they should.


  5. gavin October 10, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    Well done John. It’s a sair ficht getting the correct time of day out of these jokers, so an “apology” is worthy of note.
    But a breech in the wall is a breech to their studied claims of neutrality.

    A big plus on a really nice day, up Ochiltree brae’s picking sloes for an old friend visiting from Newburgh. Sloe gin coming soon!
    Some days life Could not be improved on!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael Brown October 10, 2018 / 9:18 pm

    Well done!
    Maybe worth printing it out and framing it

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karen October 11, 2018 / 12:56 am

    Was it also a mistake putting up a picture of a gorilla instead of Nicola and then have the ‘ news’ presenters giggle an apology ?
    Oh how we laughed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Brenda Robb October 11, 2018 / 5:22 am

    Well done John – I read the report and knew the media coverage was flawed but you did something about it. Will save this link to post in any future discussion but I suspect we won’t hear much more on this

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Contrary October 11, 2018 / 5:57 am

    Greetings from sunny Cornwall (hmm, just heard the rain start battering down, ah well. It was sunny yesterday). That is an actual bona fide apology, amazing. We can only hope this is part of the ‘changes’ they promised – but the ‘they didn’t mean to do it!’ bit suggests otherwise and I wouldn’t hold out hope – I have to agree with all comments above.

    Still. An actual apology from the BBC. Remarkable. No wonder you are in trepidatious shock John.

    Anyway, must go find that waterproof notebook ready to go hunting fungi, busy busy here, no time to chat 🙂


    • Contrary October 11, 2018 / 6:00 am

      Oh aye, stopped off on Bath on the way down here, and someone needs to let RevStu know there is at least one bear there – he has been slacking in his bear patrols of late.


      • johnrobertson834 October 11, 2018 / 8:55 am

        Is Bath on the way to Cornwall? You were hoping for s a sighting of the Rev? Try sweetie shops.


      • Contrary October 12, 2018 / 9:34 pm



    • johnrobertson834 October 11, 2018 / 8:54 am

      Trepidatious shock, my favourite knid I think

      Watch what you eat?


  10. John October 11, 2018 / 6:03 am

    Great John , one apology down , 500 more to go ! .

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ludo Thierry October 11, 2018 / 7:29 am

    Saw this great news in the National – Haven’t noticed it appearing anywhere else. I had often wondered what had happened to Clive Ponting (a man of courage and integrity) and am delighted to learn he is now living in Scotland and has actively joined the Indy fray by signing up for the SNP. Welcome aboard Clive – I really hope our paths cross at some point so I can personally say my own thanks for the actions (and high risks) you took regarding the Belgrano affair all those years ago. With recruits like Clive Ponting the Indy project is in very good hands.

    Renowned Belgrano whistleblower Clive Ponting joins the SNP

    MEMBERS of the SNP in the Scottish Borders are being invited to attend a talk to be given by one of the party’s newest members, renowned whistleblower Clive Ponting.

    Now a resident in Scotland, Ponting became famous in the 1980s when he gave government papers to Tam Dalyell MP that proved the Argentine ship General Belgrano was heading away from the Falklands War task force when it was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine HMS Conqueror with the loss of 323 lives.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Gregg B October 11, 2018 / 7:55 am

    I’m inclined to accept the possibility that it might have been an ‘honest mistake’ on the part of the author – but also an example of confirmation bias. If you start from the premise that Scotland=bad, then this story makes perfect sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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