Daily Mail misleads readers and tries to bully teachers: Government policy on COVID-19 should be dictated by the science, not by the corporate press


Frontpage of the Daily Mail, 15th May
The Daily Mail, which has campaigned for restrictions to be dropped through its editorials and other coverage for several weeks, has now turned its fire on the teachers’ unions.  Over the last few days the Mail has run a vicious campaign against the unions, belittling their safety concerns about schools re-opening.


On Friday 15th May, the Mail used its frontpage to demand that teaching unions agree to drop their concerns about teachers’ and schoolchildren’s safety ahead of plans to reopen state schools. Yesterday, referring to an openly published video of the National Education Union discussing with members its position on school re-openings, its frontpage screams “Callous teacher union’s plotting exposed”.  Further coverage has urged schools to re-open as proposed by Government.


Frontpage of the Daily Mail, 20th May
The Mail’s coverage has been misleading.  It has, for example claimed that teachers “across the nation” are “desperate” to return to work without any evidence.  On the contrary, polls suggest that only 5% of teachers think it is safe to reopen schools in England on 1st June. The leading representative organisations for teachers have argued for better protection for both children and teachers before the school term resumes.  It is obviously sensible to listen to their concerns when forming policy.


Rhian*, a primary school teacher of 10 years, said: 

“As a Primary School teacher I am hugged by at least 12 children by 9am some days, who have no concept of social distancing.  I worry for their health, their family’s health and for my own husband – who has an underlying condition and must follow stringent social shielding rules.  I thought the media would be fighting for us to get the protection we need, not bullying us back into work before it is safe.”


Instead of presenting the scientific arguments for and against opening schools – on the latter the teachers have the support of the doctors’ union, the BMA – the Mail resorts to bullying.  It describes an openly published video of the NEU discussing its position as “plotting”.  When an experienced teacher and union leader described her concerns that young children can be “mucky”, the Mail labels it a “smear”.  Teaching unions prioritising the safety of their members and schoolchildren are denounced as “callous”.  An open meeting among teachers is referred to as a “secret meeting”.


The arguments are complex and require careful debate.  But when public health issues are involved the public need information, not rhetoric.


Jack*, a primary school teacher of 6 years based in Kent: 

“It is sickening to see the Mail descend to the bullying of teachers and our representatives as it seeks to drive through the Government’s plans to re-open schools at the start of June.  I joined a union because I know how often teachers can be scapegoated in newspapers. We care deeply about each and every one of our students, and work really hard to deliver for them as much as possible. To say otherwise is simply not true… we must follow the best route laid out by a global understanding of the disease, not fact-free Mail editorials.”


The Government should be listening to the science – not to their friends in the corporate press.  But the closeness between government and the newspaper industry raises concerns that Government decision-making could be adversely influenced by newspaper owners and editors.  Those concerns exist in relation to a range of issues, but are never more important than when they relate to a matter of public health.


In a healthy democracy, relationships between government and the press would be expected to be tense. Yet in the UK, they are often largely aligned and, on occasions such as this, appear to be working together to pursue a shared agenda.


This is one area that Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry would be in a position to investigate.


Until then, the Mail should abandon its aggressive rhetoric targeting teachers and engage with the evidence.



*All quotes are from real teachers.  They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Hacked Off Campaign. First names only have been used, to protect identities from the risk of press intrusion.

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

May 21, 2020 at 3:43 pm

They say a leopard never changes it’s spots, and the mail is a classic example of that, my grandfather who fought in the first world war named it daily liar, which is a much more appropriate name.

David Livettreply
May 21, 2020 at 3:51 pm

I totally agree.This newspaper and Nick Ferrari of LBC push the same seriously right wing bias journalism.Poor journalism at best and rarely other views sought.
Fortunately,the BBC continues to report both sides of many political issues.Hopefully this government will not win in in its war of bile trying to diminish its professionalism.Keep up the good work!

Ray O’Donnellreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:05 pm

Perhaps a 4 hour class from 9:00am to 1:00 pm and a 1:30pm to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday until August 1st. Sunday if needed, same hours 2 x 24 hour lessons for teachers, gives room and any parent deciding to withdraw pupil/s will leave more room etc… This is hopefully the tail end of an epidemic lets get working as safe as possible.

Decide pupils and parents for mornings or afternoons. as with teachers.24 hours with homework and laptops provided by government, as affordable. Teachers @ 80% furloughed salary. Oxoneast

May 21, 2020 at 4:06 pm

The relationship between the Mail (in all its chameleon like forms) is informed by backstabber Gove and his wife. Whilst he is busy toadying to Murdoch, she is well dug in to the belly of the beast.

Susan Gilchristreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:15 pm

The government must engage seriously with the teachers and their unions. The front page of the Daily Mail is, I am afraid, just union bashing to help their friends in government bully the teachers. The pressshould either present both sides or keep quiet.

Brian Hanksreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:17 pm

The Mail always knows how to plumb the depths – practice makes perfect.

Iain Richardsonreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:24 pm

I don’t know enough to assess whether the Mail is just a nasty paper that attracts readers who enjoy red rag journalism, or a paper that goes for targets based on the interests of the politicians it supports. If the former, what can you actually do about it? If the latter, the current climate would seem to indicate that only the politicians would be held accountable (and even that is unlikely). Can there be increased accountability of the media without a more coherent framework of public accountability across the whole of public life?

Martin Hollinsreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:27 pm

Typical Mail neglect of the facts in pursuing its political ideology – if it has one, there than just supporting the Tories!

David Whitereply
May 21, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Sadly, we do not live in a risk-free society, and I am afraid the teachers’ union wants to pretend that we can. Many many other key workers are accepting a degree of risk greater than that faced by teachers, some of them (retail staff for example) paid far less than teachers.

In addition, in terms of business and the economy we quite simply cannot afford to allow the lockdown to continue for many months…the cost in terms of debt and its long-term consequences has, uncomfortable as it may be, to be factored in.

Much as I despise much of what the Mail stands for, on this I think they are more right than the union, and Which.

R Brayreply
May 22, 2020 at 5:39 am
– In reply to: David White

Your comment misses the point. You are trying to make a reasoned, rational argument (with which I completely disagree, incidentally, but we could discuss it in a reasonable fashion. By the way, retail workers – my partner’s one – aren’t delighted about their working conditions but don’t have customers who hug them) . But the Mail isn’t trying to have a discussion – it’s using its enormous power to wield untruths, smears and bullying to try to win the case you put forward. We’re mixing up two things here – the debate about whether or not schools should reopen and how that decision should be made on the one hand, and the extent to which parts of the media consistently lie and smear their opponents to get their way on the other . If the case that the Mail makes is so strong then why does the paper call an open meeting ‘secret’ and ‘plotting’. This is not journalism – it’s propaganda,

peter jamesreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:44 pm

The rightwing press aare running scared of the general feeling in the population thaat after this epidemic the country must change. It’s an secong 1945 and the other ranks wont stand for Butler’s “return to the time of port and pheasant” approach.
The Right are already fighting a pre-emptive campaign against the state sector. the doctors and scientists are being lined up to carry the can. Any enquiry will be long-grassed till after the next election. ReesMogg wants the backbench hooray mob back to de-isolate Johnson.
The pattern is clear.

David Crossonreply
May 21, 2020 at 4:50 pm

“Let our teachers be heroes” = “Let them die for their country. Then we’ll honour them for a bit”. I loathe this sentimental appeal to get people killed, giving them nothing in return except a round of applause. I’m just waiting for the white feathers to come out again. Pro Patria Mori.

Patrick Freynereply
May 21, 2020 at 5:10 pm

I fully support the excellent work done by the Hacked Off team and have made a couple of modest donations to the campaign in the past. I gave up buying all and reading/otherwise indulging almost all UK “news”papers (to my mind “propaganda sheets, for the main part) some time ago. Unfortunately, however, I cannot always avoid catching the accidental glimpse of the headlines on the newsstands and one such occasion was on the day of the Daily Mail’s now notorious “Let Our Teachers Be Heroes” headline (“Let’s Make Mugs Of Our Teachers”, more like!). I was genuinely shocked and disgusted by what I found to be the literally breath-taking and perverse insolence of it. A despicable new low for the Daily Mail, in my opinion.

Karen Lewisreply
May 21, 2020 at 5:25 pm

This smacks of the rich and privileged usual bullying and belittling of whom they see as servants and who they believe should know their place. Nothing ever changes in our country.

Geordie Greigreply
May 21, 2020 at 5:27 pm

Don’t waste your breath on the gutter press

J Wallsreply
May 21, 2020 at 5:31 pm

The recent pattern of government pronouncements have often been trailed through the press first. It appears that Boris and team are choosing to use the press the way Trump uses his tweets. Yesterday you may have noticed that the Testing, Tracking and Tracing measures to be introduced on 1st June are going to be Global leading ones – Trumpian tones! Given that the government have been behind the curve all the way, this is a bit rich. More significantly his statement was more of an assertion than an explanation that safety comes first and that a series of actions have been set in motion so that when the schools re-start that any suspected Coved-19 victims can be tested and contacts traced and tested, the school can beclouded and decontaminated and re-open a couple of days later and the victims and suspected victims can isolate anywhere in the UK.

May 21, 2020 at 5:36 pm

I never read the Mail (though I glance at their front page headline if I’m feeling strong) but I suspect that they, like many others, also state/imply that teachers have been doing nothing since the start of lockdown, whereas in truth they have been working their socks off preparing electronic resources, setting work and marking it, as well as holding zoom classes. Then there are the many individuals who have gone far above and beyond, delivering food etc to pupils they know to be in need. And of course the phrase ‘home-schooling’ is itself misleading, in that it implies that parents are doing the educating: in fact they are being required only to do rather more homework supervision/enforcing than usual – no pic-nic, I’m sure, but not ‘home-schooling’. (Some may choose to complement this with their own initiatives, but this is not the norm.) [No , I’m not a teacher; but I was until recently, and I’m very glad not to have to deal with the current challenges.]

David Swarbrickreply
May 21, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Sorry, but your report shos you being spoonfed a half truth. I have no time for the Mail or its campaign, but you blindly follow the Guardian in turning he results of a survey into what you want to hear. It is a poll carried out in an unidentified manner. There is a real possibility that only those ‘concerned’ about returning replied. It also uses adjectives designed to extract teh answer they wanted. I am concerned to ensure that when I cross the road it is correct to do so. Anybody would be a fool not to be concerned about the risk of this virus. ‘Being concerned’ need be no more than wanting questions answered It is just as misleading an oversimplification by the Guardian to describe this a ‘not thinking it safe’ as is the Mail’s article. The survey was clearly designed to be misinterpreted in exactly the way you have done. You should no be taken in by the Guardian any more than you should be by the Mail.

David Ruddlesdenreply
May 21, 2020 at 7:14 pm

Strange the Mail should be upset about education. They fundamentally don’t want education, if people were educated they wouldn’t buy the Mail

May 21, 2020 at 7:37 pm

it would be wise for teachers and university lecturers to reinforce the greater value of face to face interaction ? feedback. This could older students to see their teachers be achieved by allowing

teachers and university lecturers need to facilitate face to face contact with students….if they are to prove that it is valuable over “distance learning”
it must be quite possible for older children and students to do at least one day a week to see their tutors for feedback.
one day a week would mean only one fifth of students in school at any one time …leaving plenty of space for social distancing.

ld be

Tony Agathangeloureply
May 22, 2020 at 9:14 am

The Mail’s behaviour is entirely predictable.
It should be renamed then Daily Bully.
Hacked Off should call on its supporters to put the assertion above to this test: write tomorrow’s front page today. The closest effort would be awarded a Hacked Off medal.
Even more seriously, we should question whether we can have a free press in private ownership? Another challenge: a competition to design a press at multiple arms’ length distance from political parties, free from private ownership.

May 22, 2020 at 10:06 am

Keep up the good work, I am a keen supporter of your efforts to hold the majority right wing press to account.

Garry Fawcettreply
May 22, 2020 at 10:50 am

Your article talks about the safety of children and teachers, as did the Daily Mail. I don’t think that there is any reason to believe that the Government isn’t also concerned about safety. It looks to me like the Government has taken on board some of the facts of the epidemic – according to the ONS, so far this year (up to and including week 19) in England and Wales there have been a total of 3 deaths said to be COVID19-related amongst a population of roughly 10,700,000 under 15 year olds. Symptoms in this age range are also said to be quite mild.
The point is that the safety of junior school age-groups is not an issue – they could certainly return to school if it wasn’t for associated risks to others. There is however a legitimate issue for teachers’ unions regarding their members’ safety. While (ONS data again) 88% of all COVID19 deaths have been amongst the 11,000,000 aged 65+, i.e. broadly the age-groups who have retired from work, some teachers might face increased risk in their workplace, mainly those who have health vulnerabilities in their 40s, 50s and 60s. It is still the case, though, that they are much more likely to die of something else in the course of this year than from COVID19. Protection of the vulnerable, while retaining them amongst the workforce, needs to be proportionate – risks to health and safety (whether it be from COVID19 or anything else) cannot be reduced to zero.
So what is the Hacked Off Campaign’s interest in this? The article seems to be arguing that the Government’s decision-making is being led by the Mail and that they might not be “listening to the science”. There is an implication that the ‘opinion’ of Hacked Off is that the science (or other legitimate interests) is better represented by the teachers’ unions than by the Government. The Mail, which I don’t normally read, has indulged in some old-fashioned union-bashing and intemperate wording, but Hacked Off has responded by Mail-bashing. It seems to me that ‘editorial’ and ‘opinion’ are an inevitable and important part of the press and media, whether they be published by the Mail or by Hacked Off, and that Leveson would never be saying otherwise.
It would be much preferable to have a properly accountable and more diverse press and media which was not so concentrated in its ownership. Certainly Part One of the Leveson Inquiry should be fully implemented and Part Two resurrected. In the meantime let the Governement, unions, and others get on with finding a proportionate way of resuming education, and other important parts of our lives which are currently in an unsustainable lockdown.

Richard. A O’Gradyreply
May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am

I wonder if ALL the reporters Editors etc are back at work in there London Office, or working from home????

Alan Richardsonreply
May 23, 2020 at 9:31 am

In 1938 Daily Mail ran the headline “Hurrah! for the Blackshirts” nothing has changed Labelled the Forgers Gazette by Michael Foot

Rod Jonesreply
May 23, 2020 at 10:10 am

Like thousands of others, I found this article to be offensive and ill-advised, and so I made an official complaint to the IPSO. I received a reply yesterday evening, addressed to all complainants. In essence, it said that they had considered each of the 11 categories of complaint one by one… and rejected them all. This confirmed my belief that the IPSO is nothing more than a symbolic gesture made to appease the public, following the Leveson Enquiry.

I genuinely believe that the no-deal Brexit we’re facing is the result of years of anti-EU lies and distortions in the predominantly right-wing press, and so our impending isolation and the untold damage this will do, can be attributed directly to a lack of press regulation.

Sadly, I now feel that whatever good the Hacked Off Campaign does in future is too little, too late.

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