As A-level results fall 8%, England’s media respond

See the complete absence of mention across the eleven big newspapers here:

Newspaper headlines: Soaring inflation and UK has the worst rate in G7:

Not a word. Not a photo of the Education Minister James Cleverly (sic), or the PM.

But in Scotland last week:


9 thoughts on “As A-level results fall 8%, England’s media respond

  1. The difference in reporting is remarkable and as your articles point out we have been seeing this for years. Some of the articles you see online (particularly in the Express – and Telegraph these days ) feel like trolling and designed to be provocative I think. I don’t agree with some of the actions of protesters (at least as alleged in MSM reports) at the Perth hustings the other night but I certainly understand the anger.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. “at least as alleged in MSM reports” is key..
      Having seen the video the Telegraph hosted I suggest watching it to draw your own conclusions.
      The video is in two parts spliced together – first the originator’s DELETED video from within the group, the second a Tory MSP’s general view when she arrived at the conference hours before, note the deliberate framing.

      I winced at the comments made by 2 or 3, but it was how this arose which grabbed my attention, as the context matters.
      Cook was in the secure zone within the barriers, having broadcast the piece for the 6 o’clock news, yet it was Cook who approached this group who were penned behind the barriers and engaged with them, not the other way around.

      By all means criticise the comments by some of the demonstrators, but let’s be very clear here, James Cook deliberately set out to provoke a reaction from within the secure area.
      Note also his theatrical videoing of all their faces from within that safety zone, that was nothing to do with journalism – It was Cook playing psycho games.

      In short, Cook was no innocent victim in this incident, he created it.


      1. PS – For clarity, it was Perth Against Racism (PAR) who organised the demonstration via various groups, and aside chants, boos and occasional heckling as Tory audience members arrived, the entire demonstration was well behaved.

        Unlike CBC (Montreal) who were one of the broadcasters who interviewed the protestors, the BBC didn’t go near them.

        Without James Cook creating this “off-camera” stunt, all the usual media had was heckles and jeering to report by discomforted Tory attendees, exactly what the demonstrators wanted, but not what the Tories wanted….


  2. Sadly, it just once again highlights the ridiculous journalism we have to put up with, if it could be called journalism at all, from our so called “Scottish Media”. I include BBC Scotland in amongst that lot.

    And they wonder why folk get angry with them. Even the one who read’s non existent emails..

    Liked by 4 people

  3. To be fair the results were released this morning to coincide with the pupils getting their results therefore newspapers printed last night could not carry the story. The online versions today, eg Telegraph and Guardian, do headline the story as does the BBC News website but not perhaps in the polemical/apocalyptic fashion reserved for all things Scottish related.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. O/T : The Telegraph has a front page story on the ”violent mob” who attacked Tory audience members as they entered the ”debate” in Perth . They were whipped into a frenzy , the story goes , by Nicola Sturgeon as she continues ( for some inexplicable reason ) to seek another Independence referendum .
    ( I read this on the newsstand – suitably garbed in my best PPE to avoid contamination – in case anyone was concerned ! )

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If that’s by Tom Harris, then he has never forgotten as a Labour MP, losing to the SNP in Glasgow South in 2015.

      Never been right since.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s possible to conduct a near like for like assessment of how the publication of school exam results is covered by news outlets. This can most readily be done by comparing and contrasting the BBC News website articles on this topic which appear on the date of results publication.

    First para: ‘The proportion of top A-level grades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has fallen since 2021, BUT REMAINS HIGHER THAN IN 2019.’ (my emphasis) Note the immediate, countering ‘but’ to give a positive.

    Later: ‘This year’s A-level marking system has been adjusted, so that grades reflect “a midway point” between 2019 – when 25.4% were A* and A grades – and 2021, when teacher-assessed grades led to a boom in top marks. England’s exam watchdog has SAID THE APPROACH WAS INTENDED to bring grades closer to pre-pandemic levels, while reflecting “that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students’ education has been disrupted”. SIMILAR PLANS WERE PUT IN PLACE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND AND WALES.’

    This above explanatory paragraph is followed directly by: ‘In Scotland, where pupils received their exam results on 9 August, the PASS RATE AT HIGHER LEVEL FELL to 78.9% – down from 87.3% in 2021.’ No further explanation is given: the reader is left with a negative – ‘fell’!.

    There is ZERO political comment anywhere in the article.

    First and second paras: ‘Top grades at A-level have dipped since 2021, after pupils sat summer exams for the first time in three years.

    ‘HOWEVER, more than 40.9% of grades were A* and A, STILL WELL UP on the pre-Covid pandemic figure for 2019, when exams were last held.’ It takes the BBC Wales article just a little longer to introduce the positive – ‘still well up’.

    There is ZERO political comment anywhere in the article.

    First and second paras: ‘There has been a fall in the number of A-level entries in Northern Ireland awarded top A* and A grades in 2022 following the return of exams.

    ‘BUT THE PROPORTION OF TOP GRADES IS MUCH HIGHER than in 2019, the previous year when results were based on exams.’

    Again note the early ‘but’ to shift the framing to a positive.

    Apart from a short quote from an Education Minister, there is ZERO political comment anywhere in the article.

    Note in all the above how soon the text introduces a word or phrase to acknowledge the positive in 2022 relative to the true comparator, 2019!

    BBC News Scotland page – from SQA results day
    First four paragraphs: ‘The pass rate for pupils sitting exams in Scotland has DROPPED from the levels seen in the two years when they were affected by Covid pandemic measures.

    ‘At Higher level, the number of pupils getting an A to C pass was 78.9%, DOWN from 87.3% last year.

    ‘This was higher than the rate of 74.8% in 2019, the last year in which formal exams were sat across the country.’ Would it not be clearer to state ‘the 2022 rate IS higher than that in 2019’?

    Later in this article there is this rather confusing acknowledgement: ‘Meanwhile, the gap between attainment levels in the least and most deprived areas NARROWED from the 2019 level, BUT has FALLEN from last year’s figures’. Clear?

    But the main difference in the BBC Scotland coverage is the inclusion of political comment – and it’s not as if the comment is mild! The Scottish Tory spokesperson, Oliver Mundell is quoted using the words ‘betraying’ and – regarding the ‘widening’ of an attainment gap (that hasn’t widened) – ‘badge of shame’. Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems have their evidence-free negatives amplified by the BBC too.

    Are opposition politicians in England, NI and Wales truly silent or not approached by the BBC for comment or even just more ‘serious’ people who don’t engage in the same nonsense as their counterparts in Scotland? After all, the circumstances and outcomes associated with school qualifications from 2019 through to 2022 across the four nations of the UK don’t seem markedly different.

    I can find no reference to an attainment gap in the coverage of the rUK exam results but we know from the new Institute for Fiscal Studies report that a persistent one does exist in England. What’s happened to it in 2022 relative to previous years?

    The regulator, Ofqual states this regarding the English exam results:

    ‘Equalities analyses: Now that results have been issued, Ofqual will be repeating the equalities analyses we published in 2020 and 2021. It was not possible for us to complete this analysis ahead of results being issued, because final data from exams is only available very close to results days. We will publish this AS SOON AS WE CAN, IN THE AUTUMN.’ Careful news management – or have I become too cynical?

    Source: Ofqual (18 August 2022) Guide to AS and A level results in England, summer 2022 – First summer exams since 2019 – this year’s grades explained.

    Liked by 4 people

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