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CCTV is used to spy on teachers

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 24 December, 2010 | By: Alice Ross

Keeping check on pupil behaviour is no longer its sole purpose, watchdog warns

Schools are expanding their use of CCTV to monitor teaching performance and “private” spaces including toilets and changing rooms, the Government’s privacy watchdog has warned.

Video surveillance has moved from being used for security to keeping check on pupil behaviour in all parts of schools, according to a report by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The growth of “private sector management” of state schools is also likely to herald a new wave of privacy issues, the report says.

The wide-ranging concerns have prompted an angry response from unions, which claim that cameras are being used to undermine their members.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said CCTV was “crude and ineffective”.

“No other profession would tolerate this kind of surveillance. Why should teachers be expected to?

“The increase in CCTV surveillance of teachers can be correlated directly with the increase in school autonomy and the punitive accountability regime.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she had “grave worries”.

“Teachers are saying they don’t know what CCTV there is and what it’s being used for,” she said.

“Many schools have CCTV, but no CCTV policy, and in that vacuum anything could happen. Everyone should know where the cameras are and what they are being used for.”

The report, which includes contributions from academics at the Surveillance Studies Network, was presented to Parliament by information commissioner Christopher Graham.

It says: “The use of CCTV in schools has migrated from perimeter security and access control to monitoring pupil behaviour in public areas such as in corridors and playgrounds, and to more private realms such as changing rooms and toilets.”

It adds: “As the function of school CCTV has changed, it is apparent that some schools have not understood their new regulatory responsibilities.

“These issues are only likely to intensify with new uses for cameras in education, such as the remote-operated web-cams on laptops provided for pupils’ home use in the USA. Similar practices are more likely in the UK if private sector management of state schools spreads, as the Government intends.”

David Smith, deputy information commissioner, said that CCTV should only be used to monitor pupils’ behaviour in exceptional circumstances.

“We would stress that constant filming and sound recording is unlikely to be acceptable unless there is a pressing need,” he said. Constant CCTV monitoring of whole classes as a means of combating “low level disruption” would not be justified, Mr Smith said.

Despite this, the report notes that complaints to the ICO have risen in the past year.

“School teachers, in particular, have found that CCTV installed to control pupil behaviour has been used to monitor their teaching performance,” it notes.

The report comes after a study funded by Salford University, published earlier this year, which found that surveillance cameras are now installed in most UK schools.

Dr Emmeline Taylor, the author of that study, said that the ICO was powerless to punish schools that broke the rules.

“Schools are often unaware of what their legal obligations are and the issue is exacerbated by the fact that the ICO has very little power of enforcement, and perhaps even a reluctance to enforce legislation, so even schools that are overtly in contravention of the law see very little consequence,” she said. Dr Taylor is calling for bespoke guidelines on CCTV for schools.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We expect schools to comply with guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Coalition government has committed to regulating CCTV. This will apply to education settings.”

Surveillance Studies Network, was presented to Parliament by information commissioner Christopher Graham. It says: “The use of CCTV in schools has migrated from perimeter security and access control to monitoring pupil behaviour in public areas such as in corridors and playgrounds, and to more private realms such as changing rooms and toilets.”

It adds: “As the function of school CCTV has changed, it is apparent that some schools have not understood their new regulatory responsibilities.

“These issues are only likely to intensify with new uses for cameras in education, such as the remote-operated webcams on laptops provided for pupils’ home use in the USA. Similar practices are more likely in the UK if private sector management of state schools spreads, as the Government intends.”

David Smith, deputy information commissioner, said CCTV should only be used to monitor pupils’ behaviour in exceptional circumstances. “We would stress that constant filming and sound recording is unlikely to be acceptable unless there is a pressing need,” he said.

Constant CCTV monitoring of whole classes as a means of combating “low level disruption” would not be justified, Mr Smith added.

Despite this, the report notes that complaints to the ICO have risen in the past year.

“School teachers, in particular, have found that CCTV installed to control pupil behaviour has been used to monitor their teaching performance,” it notes.

The report comes after a study, funded by Salford University and published earlier this year, found that surveillance cameras are now installed in most UK schools.

Dr Emmeline Taylor, author of the study, said the ICO was powerless to punish schools that broke the rules.

“Schools are often unaware of what their legal obligations are, and the issue is exacerbated by the fact that the ICO has very little power of enforcement, and perhaps even a reluctance to enforce legislation, so even schools that are overtly in contravention of the law see very little consequence,” she said. Dr Taylor is calling for bespoke guidelines on CCTV for schools.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We expect schools to comply with guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office. The coalition Government has committed to regulating CCTV. This will apply to education settings.”


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Comment (13)

  • Hmm, perhaps wearing a Burqa isn't such a bad idea!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16:31
    23 December, 2010

    FolkFan

  • I would be interested to see any facts and figures - or even to hear some stories - to support this wild and apparently unsubstantiated claim!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:04
    23 December, 2010

    SaucySailoress

  • In response to FolkFan's comment 'Hmm, perhaps wearing a Burqa isn't such a bad idea!'

    I have been in classes where there has been complete chaos and in my opinion I feel that having cameras within classes is a way forward. In society there are cameras that watch our every move, so what would the difference be in having more cameras within schools and in our classrooms.

    i have nothing to hide and I think many others will agree. so your comment on 'Hmm, perhaps wearing a Burqa isn't such a bad idea!' is a bit extreme and perhaps you should reflect on where it has come from and why it's impotant to you to leave such a message on the TES website.

    I look forward to your response!


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    23:00
    23 December, 2010

    JHANIMRA

  • Its often referred to as 'educational transformation'. The everychild matter agenda states Be healthy, Enjoy and achieve,Make a positive contribution,Achieve economic well-being and

    ‘Stay safe’
    Therefore surely the use of CCTV systems will ensure that young people are safe from crime and anti-social behaviour. Schools have a duty of care towards staff also. I have experienced the use of CCTV cameras in the school corridors of mainstream schools and pupil referral/short stay schools. It has helped identify pupils who do start to revert to crime such as theft of pupil’s expensive jackets, phones and school laptops. Large numbers of students bullying a child (gang members). Identifying such behaviour at an early age can probe intervention rather than leave that individual to continue to behave and not be noticed. It is known teacher’s fall victim, suffer violent attacks almost every day, this is unacceptable and necessary action should be taken, ie CCTV cameras have made pupils think twice, surely as staff you will feel safe and not be frightened of this. It is not good to hear that complaints to the ICO have arisen and teachers feel that their performance is being challenged. If this is the case then guidance should be sought.
    We cannot not have CCTV cameras in schools in this age : Safety is paramount and I would hope schools using CCTV will see the positive impact that colleagues/ professional staff display and use other channels to assess performance of teachers justly.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    1:03
    24 December, 2010

    sp350

  • Burqa or no burqa.....did I read correctly?
    'use of CCTV to monitor teaching performance and “private” spaces including toilets and changing rooms' !!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:12
    24 December, 2010

    rose90

  • I AGREE WITH FOLK FAN..... Perhaps wearing a full face burrqa or veil is a very good idea...... COME ON GUYS, This is utterly ridiculous..... CCTV to monitor toilets, private space etc...... Teachers have private and social lives as well..... Most headteachers know their incompetent staff anyway...... it' s no big secret!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:50
    26 December, 2010

    winston2005

  • sp350 ...

    I totally agree with your comments. Time after time CCTV has proven invaluable in protecting staff and pupils from malicious allegations in my school. It also offers the corroboration needed to supporte exclusion. Parents are now actively encoraged to appeal exclusions and without evidence you don't stand a chance. Gone are the days when the teachers word was just accepted. I now work as a pastoral manager after 32yrs in the police service and neither is police evidence alone accepted to convict in a court. But don't misunderstand me, I want to see everything possible done to ensure behaviour is brought under control and enable other students their right to an education. Your job is difficult enough.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    14:10
    26 December, 2010

    anon285

  • I am a union representative at my school and I have undertaken this role for the last 6 years. I have represented members in other schools whereby accusations have been made against staff and CCTV has been a valuable resource that has meant that my members are still in a job and are earning a living as there was no truth in the allegations that were made against them.

    So long as CCTV isn't misused and is used for the intended purpose which in my mind is to protect staff, students and the wider community ... we can't really go wrong!

    Having worked in Education for over 10 years and with some very challenging students in my time. I have seen a lot of change in terms of how student behaviour has changed, as a small minority of students are very aggressive now and in some cases the parents of these youngsters are too. So when I first started working with young people I was anti cameras, however my opinion has changed, yes I agree it is unfortunate that schools have to work in this way and invest in cameras when the money could be used on children’s education itself, however they are worth having and save a lot of manpower in dealing with unruly behaviour and investigating anti social behaviour and they also act as a deterrent.

    I am not aware of any schools that use cameras within their changing rooms, however I am aware that some schools use cameras within their toilets to establish who is going in and out of them, but this is the sole purpose for having them within the toilets.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19:51
    26 December, 2010

    JHANIMRA

  • I have worked in schools where cameras have been put in toilets and changing rooms because they are places where bullying and such can take place because they think that teachers won't go in there.

    Provided they are correctly sighted (and they usually are) there are no privacy issues.

    As regards in the classroom - BRING IT ON! I would be delighted to have a camera in my classroom. There was talk about enabling parents to log onto the school website to check their child's progress. Don't know if that is still happening, but when it was, I told my students about it and also said that the general feedback from parents was that they would like to log into the classroom cameras where their kids were to see what they were up to.

    The kids hated that, but me, I say, lets have it - and sound as well as vision too. Then, the parents can see just what their kids are like in class.

    Cameras in class? Great stuff!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10:42
    29 December, 2010

    S_Joynson

  • Yes I think it is a good idea and would safe alot of teachers when wild accusations are made, as is the case of some international schools whose students and their parents controls the school.

    This will also give those students who want to learn an opportunty because the real disruption will be identified. Providing of course that the school does something with this evidence to improve situations for both students and teachers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:16
    4 January, 2011

    gelatili

  • Gelatili
    "Providing of course that the school does something with this evidence to improve situations for both students and teachers."

    I think you have hit the nail on the head there!

    Far too often pupil's behaviour is put down to "poor teaching" or not engaging the pupils' interests. The cameras can show that actually most pupils are interested and willing to learn but are frustrated by a small group of pupils who appear to be invunerable to sanctions!

    I am personally in two minds about cameras in classrooms, but we have found the evidence from corridors invaluable when dealing with incidents at our school.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19:35
    4 January, 2011

    Teaching Man

  • I would not be embarassed by my teaching in the classroom and would not therefore be opposed to CCTV. I have pointed out, however, to some pupils that they would be embarassed if their parents could see what their behaviour was like in the classroom. It could be a useful deterrent for unacceptable behaviour.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:41
    5 January, 2011

    clarelriley

  • Yes... more please! More dehumanisation, more normalisation of fascistic apparatus of control, more 'operant conditioning' for our brave, new surveillance society.

    Any 'educators' that support and argue for the death of privacy and interpersonal trust with that immortal line "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" should perhaps seek a more fulfilling career as an operative for a Stasi-like bureacracy in a nation with scant regard for liberal ideals.

    What chance do the children have of freeing their minds when their teachers are happy to work within the confines of a Skinner's Box with windows.

    If cameras are to be used to fight bullies I suggest they be stationed in the boardrooms of investment banks, agrichemical corporations, defence contractors and foreign offices across the globe. Why not? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

    Only a failed society requires CCTV cameras in places where children go to be educated. They are a symptom of a cultural and political sickness that has eroded connectedness, goodwill and trust.

    We must rebuild trust within broken communties, develop a wider understanding of the history of progressive politics and have the courage to stand up collectively to the decision makers who continue to push the population into servitude.

    Teachers have a moral obligation to man the cultural barricades to ensure that all concepts of privacy and personal sovereignty are not lost forever.

    Saying "CCTV good, children bad" is nothing but learned helplessness. Get out of the box, be the cog that breaks the machine, fight back, start now.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9:07
    7 January, 2011

    Wilko67

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