Should schools have CCTV in changing rooms and toilets?
Campaigners outraged by 100,000 cameras in schools but teachers point to the benefits
SCHOOLS in Britain have more than 100,000 cameras in their playgrounds, classrooms and even toilets and changing rooms, according to a report by a civil liberties campaign group.
Big Brother Watch found that secondary schools and academies across England, Scotland and Wales are using 106,710 cameras in a bid to control violence, vandalism and theft.
More than 200 schools have CCTV operating in changing rooms or toilets, and some have a ratio of one camera for every five children.
The statistics, based on the results of more than 2,000 Freedom of Information requests, has sparked outrage among campaigners but some parents and teachers can see the benefits.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, insisted that schools "need to come clean" about why they are using cameras and what is happening to the footage.
"Many parents and teachers will be asking how this could happen without public outcry," he wrote on Conservative Home. "More importantly, they will want to know what is being done to ensure intrusive CCTV cameras are not allowed to enter into schools, especially areas where privacy is paramount."
Sharon Holder, national officer for the trade union GMB, told The Guardian she was "appalled" at the findings. "Placing CCTV in school bathrooms poses a worrying development in school policy and raises a number of questions," she said. "How many parents have given head teachers permission to film their child going to the toilet or having a shower? What happens to the film afterwards?"
But Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of parenting website Netmums, told the Evening Standard: "I think everybody realises that this is not in the cubicles, it is in the open areas, and actually, that's where a lot of bullying and difficult behaviour takes place.
"It is an area where teachers are not likely to be. Parents are probably quite pleased about it."
Hardial Hayer, the head teacher of Radclyffe School in Oldham, which topped the list of schools with cameras in toilets or changing rooms, confirmed that his school’s CCTV only overlooks washbasins and camera are not placed near cubicles.
Another head teacher, Eddie Wilkes from Highfields School in Derbyshire, told the Derby Evening Telegraph that CCTV had helped reduce damage in toilet areas and tackle bullying. He added that the installation of cameras had "followed extensive consultation" with governors, students, parents and staff. Teacher and author, Tom Bennett, tweeted that "the only controversy about CCTV in schools is that anyone's bothered by it".
A Department for Education spokesman said: "CCTV can be beneficial in some cases but this is a decision that head teachers should take."