Piers Morgan criticises ‘bonkers’ reaction to ‘triggering’ GCSE calorie question for pupils with eating disorders

Katie O'Malley

Piers Morgan has described criticism of a GCSE calorie question as “bonkers” after several Twitter users say it could be triggering for pupils with eating disorders.

The question appeared in Edexcel’s calculator paper, which was sat by candidates on Thursday 6 June, the Times Educational Supplement reports.

The question asked about how many calories a woman had consumed for breakfast, prompting several Twitter users to argue that it might affect people who have struggled with an eating disorder.

The question on the paper read: “There are 84 calories in 100g of banana. There are 87 calories in 100g of yogurt. Priti has 60g of banana and 150g of yogurt for breakfast. Work out the total number of calories in this breakfast”.

During a segment on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, the presenter quoted Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, who tweeted him to explain why the question may affect certain individuals.

“Taking exams whilst suffering an eating disorder is tough enough without having @piersmorgan suggest you shouldn’t be taking exams if question on calorie counting triggers issues – total lack of compassion and understanding of serious mental health condition #edexcelmaths,” Nokes tweeted the presenter.

The broadcaster questioned Nokes’ argument, adding: “This country is going completely bonkers.”

He continued, saying: “We don’t rewrite the entire maths paper which has a perfectly reasonable question because somebody may have a trigger moment.”

The debate has prompted mixed reactions on Twitter with several agreeing with the 54-year-old's argument.

Replying to Nokes' comment on social media, Morgan wrote: "Oh please. It’s utter snowflake nonsense. Have you even read the question?"

One Twitter user commented on the star's post: “This is utter madness, there will always be someone who is offended by something....but a maths question shouldn’t be one of them!”

“Totally agree with you Piers! It’s getting ridiculous! We are getting to the point of not daring to speak to anyone about anything for fear of upsetting them over something!!” commented another.

However, others have pointed out how affecting the question may be to certain individuals who have been affected by eating disorders.

One user commented added: “Being in recovery of an eating disorder is one of the most difficult and frustrating things ever and a question like this can easily trigger someone years after they have had it so pls go and f**king educate urself thanks [sic].”

Another added: “As somebody who was hospitalised for anorexia in my final GSCE year this question would have been really difficult for me. Piers Morgan can f**k off, his ignorance is showing through again.[sic]”

One user tweeted: “Okay, yes it’s just a maths question and as someone with anorexia I’ve had to get used to working out the numbers and ignoring the context, but the reality is that everyone is at different points in their journey and the topic is easily avoided so why risk triggering relapse?”

On Tuesday, a spokesperson from Pearson – which owns the exam board EdExcel – responded to the backlash on Twitter and said the company has reviewed the question and believes it to be “valid”.

However, they invited students to complain if they felt “triggered” by the question.

“We encourage any student who thinks that this question may have impacted their performance to get in contact with us via their school,” a segment of the Tweet reads.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorder charity BEAT says referencing to counting calories can be triggering for people with or in recovery from an eating disorder and can therefore cause significant distress.

“We would urge greater awareness of how such references can affect people with or vulnerable to eating disorders, and given that young people are most at risk of these serious mental illnesses, we would encourage exam boards to avoid such material in their exams,” Quinn told The Independent.

According to the organisation, approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are estimated to have an eating disorder. Around 25 per cent of those affected by an eating disorder are male.

If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support: