A Twinning Exercise

This story is either a manipulative attempt to blag free nappies from Tesco, typically shit journalism from The Daily Mail, or a combination of both.

Twin Girls born either side of midnight to be split up in school....

The two girls - named Lexus and Amber - (maybe the parents had just bought the Jeremy Clarkson Book of Baby Names: Fact!) were born on 31st August and 1st September. The school term commences on September 1st.

  • [This name game is becoming quite popular as Iris Hurst, born on the back seat of an Audi, was named in honour of the Toyota Yaris.]

The twins story is unusual maybe, but normally the kind of filler that would make page 7 of the local free sheet opposite a review of Bobbins Bistro.
Indeed, the Northampton Chronicle has the story. Whilst it mentions the parents' desire to ensure they are taught together, the paper appears to employ a decent sub-editor as it headlines it, Twins Born a School Year Apart.

The story continues in The Mail:
  • But the possibility they will be separated for much of their formative years is already hanging over the pair - and all because they were born either side of midnight.

    The girls were born just 45 minutes apart on the the night of August 31, but one arrived before it officially became September 1 and one after.

  • Mr Caldwell, who is also a twin, said they would teach the girls at home or move to Spain if they cannot start school together.
  • 'My family live in Spain and they have a different academic year so we'd rather move out there than split up the twins,' his girlfriend added. .
This may seem reasonable; two new parents concerned about the future. But wait, what does the local authority charged with deciding on such education issues, Northamptonshire County Council say:

  • A spokesman said: 'We will need to look into this nearer the time Lexus and Amber are due to start school as part of their overall application for a school place.

    'Any decision made will be in the best interests of both children as well as taking into consideration the wishes of the parents.'
So, the denouement arrives and all is not as it appeared. No need to disappear to Spain just yet. Surely, not a simple exercise in creating a drama out of nothing in order to bash public servants.

Fortunately, even the Mail commentators see through the charade:

  • By the time these little girls are actually of school age, common sense will surely prevail. There is no law forcing a 4 year old to attend school anyway and the simple solution would be for both girls to start together albeit a school year later. If limited school places are the issue then approaching the local authority about this in good time will ensure the twins are schooled together.

    - LKP, Fleet, 9/9/2008 11:02

  • They haven't even spoken to their Local Education Authority yet, so are rather jumping the gun.

    - Libby, London, UK, 9/9/2008 12:12

However, there are the usual headline readers who just don't get it:
  • Does this New Dis-United Kingdom not have any common sense left as everything is down to figures and statistics?

    Brianless Britian is really going down the drain as we seem to have have lost our grey matter in all the corruption of this past decade.

    - Penny Ward, Harpenden UK, 9/9/2008 10:16

  • What else do you expect from this crazy Schooling systems of today at one time twins were always schooled together unless one was brighter than the other but they stated school together. The Northampton Council needs it heads bang together.

    - Richard, England, 9/9/2008 13:43

(Richard's use of spelling and grammar are hardly a shining example of the education system. Maybe he was born on February 29th and only started school a few years ago.)

Now, this may seem a trivial matter to moan about. However, the Mail has form for this sort of thing. Time after time, the headline bears no relation to the facts of the story or even the actual text contained thereafter. The Mail is not stupid; it knows its demographics.

It also knows that the Press Complaints Commission is a toothless tiger. Take this comment from a complaint upheld this year:
  • 'We need to make people sit up and take notice. Leave some packages around Heathrow. That’ll make them take notice'. This remark appeared to be the basis for the front page headline which categorically reported that “Militants will hit Heathrow”, and a sub-headline which said 'Hoax bombs to cause alerts'. Beyond the comments by the ‘man in his late 20s’ – whose status and identity were unclear, as was whether any plan actually emerged – there was no other evidence for these bold claims.

    This was a matter of concern for the Commission. There was nothing in the headline to indicate to readers the insubstantial basis of the claims. Neither was there adequate qualification in the text of the article.

Despite this, the Mail continues to operate on its usual terms. I do not wish to fetter the freedom of the press, but with this freedom comes responsibility. Failure to act responsibly deserves a stiffer response: a blank front page.