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.


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.

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.

Leave a reply