Success! Telegraph apologises and runs correction after MediaWatch exposes false claim

Story amended after James Bartholomew's claim on social mobility shown to be completely wrong


The Telegraph has apologised and corrected a piece due to MediaWatch scrutiny after its author apologised for citing evidence that showed the opposite of what he claimed.

The newspaper contacted MediaWatch today to say a correction has been published on the online version of the story. A print correction will run on page 2 this week.

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The piece, ‘Britain’s class ceiling is a myth’, by Welfare of Nations author James Bartholomew, claimed an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report in 2010 found Britain was the ‘ninth best out of 30 countries’ for secondary school achievement independent of parents’ socio-economic background.

But the author apologised after MediaWatch checked and found that Britain was actually ninth worst in this respect.

MediaWatch requested the Telegraph run print and online corrections and made a formal complaint to the paper.

The online version of the story now bears this correction at the end:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Britain is ‘ninth best’ out of 30 countries with regard to the influence of parental background on student achievement in secondary education. In fact, according to the OECD report that was the source of this statistic, Britain came 22nd, ie ninth worst. We apologise for this error, which has been corrected.”

The story itself has also been amended, with the relevant paragraph now citing the OECD report as evidence of how Britain is falling short on social mobility, rather than as an example of how well the country is doing.

You can view the original passage and the amended version below.

You can also read our original exposure of this error here (June 16) and Mr Bartholomew’s apology here (June 17).

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Original passage:

“But is Britain worse than other countries in this respect? Again, the answer is ‘no’. Britain is ninth best out of 30 countries in achieving educational success for children independently of the parents’ socio-economic status, according to a comprehensive OECD study in 2010.”

Amended passage:

“There are different ways of measuring this. An OECD report in 2010 found that Britain came ninth worst out of 30 countries with regard to the influence of parental background on student achievement in secondary education. On this measure it was in the lower half, but it still did better than France, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.”

The original web version had linked to the wrong OECD report. The replacement link is the one MediaWatch found and read against the author’s claim.

Mysteriously, a short passage after this, claiming Britain was below average among advanced countries for parents’ background accounting for reading scores, (13.8 per cent vs an average of 14 per cent), has been quietly deleted.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Did the Telegraph’s James Bartholomew misread an OECD study on social mobility?

Telegraph’s James Bartholomew apologises for ‘error’ after MediaWatch scrutiny


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