Sunday 15 December 2013

The BBC v free schools (2)

As you may recall, various right-leaning commentators took the BBC to task for spinning a recent report about free schools to make it look worse than it was. They accused the BBC of having an "anti-free schools bias".

Toby Young, in particular, specifically charged BBC online education correspondent Hannah Richardson with having written a "misleading article", accusing her of "Left-wing bias". 

Just to test the grounds for this allegation, I've checked back through the BBC News website and tracked down all of Hannah's articles which focus (to a lesser or greater extent) on the issue of free schools. (I've not included all those articles where they are mentioned merely in passing, usually when some union leader is denouncing them in a speech).

Here are those articles in chronological order:
22 Jul 2010 
"The creation of Swedish-style free schools in England could increase social segregation but net limited improvements, a leading academic claims.
Dr Susanne Wiborg, of the Institute of Education, also says it could lead to many private providers running schools."
14 Aug 2010
"Private firms are lining up with parent groups to run the Conservatives' flagship "free schools" in England.
These are the new schools that Education Secretary Michael Gove wants parent or teacher groups to set up and run with public funds."
24 Nov 2010
"The National Union of Teachers warned the expansion of the academies and free schools programme was a wrong move that would a two tier education system."
2 Dec 2010
"Plans to shake up the schools system could lead to increased segregation, the Department for Education's own research warns.
Boosting school choice could lead to parents selecting schools for their "peer groups", a study on the impact of its Schools White Paper says."
14 Jan 2011
"A community-led group in Suffolk has become the first in England to get formal approval for their plans to open a new "free" school."
7 Jan 2012
"The government's flagship free schools programme is unlikely to boost access to good schools as they are too expensive, research has suggested.
The Bristol research said it was "inconceivable" more than one parent-founded school would be set up in an area with spare places."
20 Mar 2012
"The government should tackle the growing crisis in primary school places rather than approve more free schools, says shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg."
13 Dec 2012
"A flagship new free school where pupils practise transcendental meditation twice daily has been reprimanded by the government after it failed to put any of its pupils into compulsory national curriculum tests."
15 Oct 2013
"Michael Gove has been urged to monitor free schools more closely after a Muslim faith school was closed temporarily because of safety concerns."

17 Oct 2013

"Described as "dysfunctional" and "in chaos", there can be no doubt that the problems at the Al-Madinah School go right to its core.
Rated inadequate in all four inspection areas, Ofsted said problems at the Derby school were "myriad".
Not only does it lack the basic structures needed to operate, it is said to be close to "collapsing".
Al-Madinah is the second free school to be put into special measures, after Discovery Free School in May 2013."
24 Oct 2013
"Checks on inexperienced staff who want to be head teachers at free schools have been scrapped, despite warnings from civil servants."
11 Dec 2013
"The government's flagship free school programme will cost at least three times the sum originally allocated, the public spending watchdog has found."
13 Dec 2013
"The government has ordered the closure of a failing free school for the first time after education inspectors found standards there unacceptably poor."
As you can see from that list, Hannah has been consistently and almost unremittingly negative in her reporting of free schools since the very beginning. (The exception is First green light for community's free school plan.) 

Critiques from anti-free school academics, criticisms from union leaders and Labour, negatively-spun leaked reports, heavily-spun academic/civil service reports, plus every whiff of bad news about free schools (especially about the only two which have got themselves into serious difficulties) has been seized upon by Hannah Richardson.  

I'd say that this provides pretty clear evidence that Toby Young is correct about this particular BBC reporter's anti-free school bias and that she is in danger of being seen as a campaigning journalist if she's not careful. 

Don't you agree?


  1. Well worth quantifying this somebody!
    %bias as proportion of`s clear what the direction of travel is!
    A Craig Index?...I accept this would be more than could reasonably be expected.
    Only consolation being that the BBC are so shit at maths, stats and science( More or Less excepted..bias there though too!) that you`d have irrefutable proof of their venal leftyism( that on the DSM yet?)

  2. It's difficult to know how the BBC could be reporting anything else, given the huge amount of money being given to the "free" school movement at the expense of community schools and given the huge number of spare places in the open "free" schools and the number of private schools which have been bailed out by the Government by becoming "free" schools or academies and are, therefore, currently selective.


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