Disappointment at interview methods employed by The TES;Letter

27th March 1998 at 00:00
I am writing to put the record straight with regard to the article headed "They fought the law and the law won" (TES, March 13). The facts of the case are well known and I believe were fairly reported in the press with only minor deviations from proven facts as I understand them.

On each of the four occasions that the two teachers appeared in court the school co-operated with the media as best it could, making available a press statement as full as legal circumstances would allow. In addition, as headteacher, I made myself available for interviews with local radio and regional television when asked. Again, with one or two minor embellishments, my comments were reported accurately, even in the tabloid press.

On the morning of Friday March 6 I was informed by my secretary that a number of sixth-form students were very concerned because they had been approached on their way into school by a reporter asking for their opinions on what had happened to their teachers the day before in court. They also reported that this same person had been seen knocking on doors in the local community.

Since I was involved in conducting two investigatory meetings with representatives of the teachers concerned I asked senior staff to locate the reporter and invite her into school. When a deputy and I met her she identified herself as a reporter from The TES.

In speaking with her at no time did I state that I did not expect The TES to be asking questions. What I did say in a firm but not "hostile" manner was that, as a long-term reader of the newspaper, I was greatly disappointed and very saddened to discover a reporter from The TES walking the streets around the school and lying in wait for its students. I did make it very clear to her that this was not the approach I expected of such a respected publication. Incidentally, to the best of my knowledge, The TES was the only newspaper to adopt such a tactic.

My respect for your newspaper, and that of my staff, has consequently been sadly diminished by the tactics followed by your reporter that morning.


Headteacher The Boswells School Springfield, Chelmsford

The Editor writes: Before visiting The Boswells, our reporter telephoned Mr Arkell's office twice to discuss the impact on the school of the publicity surrounding the imprisonment of two teachers - a subject we believe to be of legitimate interest to our readers. He was not available to speak to The TES. In order to report the views of others affected by the court case it was necessary to talk to some of them. We approached sixth-formers exclusively, in line with the Press Complaints Commission requirement that children under 16 should not be interviewed without their parents' permission. Our reporter also called upon some known parents of children at the school. She clearly stated who she was and what she wished to ask them about before seeking their consent to be interviewed. This elicited the important information that the teachers' conviction was not seen as a reflection on the school. We regret any concern caused in the school; other newspapers may not have been interested in reporting the impact of recent events on parents and pupils.

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