Public had ‘right to know’ Kelly chose private school

Members of the public had a right to know a cabinet minister had sent her son to a private school as it raised important points for public debate, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has ruled.

The PCC has unanimously rejected a complaint against the Daily Mirror by former education secretary Ruth Kelly that the paper contravened her son’s right to privacy.

The Daily Mirror named Ms Kelly as the cabinet minister revealed in an earlier Mail on Sunday article to have withdrawn her son from a local state school for a £15,000-a-year private school because of learning difficulties.

The now communities minister lodged a complaint with the PCC, alleging that by naming her, the Daily Mirror had contravened her son’s right to privacy, violating the Newspaper Code Of Practice against intrusion into children’s lives.

However, the PCC today rejected her claim, finding the public’s right to know had been balanced against the child’s right to privacy. It was relevant and necessary to name Ms Kelly, the PCC ruled, in order to have a full discussion of the issues, which were “of considerable public interest”.

The PCC said: “The fact that a cabinet minister – who had previously been secretary of state for education and skills – had elected to remove her child from the state system to be enrolled in a private school raised important issues for public debate.

“Even if government policy included an acceptance of private schooling for those with special needs, the fact that the complainant did not feel that the current state system could meet her child’s requirements raised questions about the nature of publicly-funded schooling and its ability to cater for children with special needs (including those whose families would not be able to pay for private schooling).”

The Daily Mirror has welcomed the PCC’s decision, saying it is “gratified” the commission agreed it was “necessary” for the public interest to name Ms Kelly.

Richard Wallace, editor of the Daily Mirror, said: “It was most regrettable that a complaint was made to the PCC in the first place, over a story that was quite clearly of the highest public interest.

“As the Daily Mirror said at the time, when it comes to important issues the public has a right to know whether politicians are as sound in deed as they are in word.”

Ms Kelly claimed she removed her son from a local state school on the advice that a specialist private school would be better able to meet his educational needs. Her three other children are educated at state schools and Ms Kelly said she intended to return her son, who has dyslexia, to the state system after a “couple of years”.

At the time Ms Kelly defended her move, saying “I, like any mother, want to do the right thing for my son”. All parents face difficult choices, she told critics, acknowledging some would disagree with her decision.