Centre for Social Justice: correcting the record?

17 June 2013

A few days ago we argued that the Centre for Social Justice had done the public a disservice.

At the beginning of last week the think tank issued a press release promoting its new report into family breakdown. But the report itself didn't materialise until several days after the press release had received considerable media attention.

Publishing claims without showing your evidence is a perilous game. So it proved for the CSJ by the end of last week, when Full Fact was surprised to discover that one attention-grabbing claim from the original press release had been removed completely:

As we were checking the report, we noticed the 80% figure was nowhere to be seen, and there was no mention of a correction or alteration:

However, the figure had already travelled far and wide, and could be spotted in the Daily MailDaily TelegraphDaily ExpressMetrothe Independent, Sky and ITV news.

So why quietly alter the press release after the fanfare? A closer look at the detail suggests one reason.

The facts

The CSJ's claims are based on recent Parliamentary Questions. For one question, the Secretary of State for Education was asked how many primary schools had no qualified full-time male teacher. For a second question, he was asked how many boys attending state-funded primary schools (those eligible and not eligible for free school meals) were at a school with just one, two or three full-time male teachers. The report itself also cites a spreadsheet in which the answers are set out by local authority.

So what do the numbers tell us? Firstly, we're only talking about primary schools in England, not "England and Wales".

Allowing for that, the CSJ's first claim - that one in four English primary schools has no male teacher - checks out. As of November 2012, about 27% of English primary schools (4,483) had no full-time qualified male teacher. 

However, the CSJ have provided no evidence that 80% of primary schools have fewer than three male teachers. Instead, the evidence suggests that about 80% of state-educated boys are in primary schools with three or fewer full-time qualified male teachers - 1,608,000 boys fall into this category, out of 2,012,000 overall.

Some of the data we put together from the Parliamentary Questions is graphed below:

By 10:30 this morning the CSJ had also realised their mistake: it issued a third version of the press release, this time announcing that the original claim had been amended to the correct version:

Damage done?

While the CSJ has - eventually - amended its press notice to better reflect the facts, the inaccurate figures still sit on prominent websites across the news media. We've asked the CSJ whether it will inform the outlets of the mistake so that it's possible for them to correct the record as well. So far, we've had no word.

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