1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Should schools use CCTV to spy on pupils & staff covertly?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by FrankWolley, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Unthinkable? Well this school did:


    The school's headmaster, Dr John Weeds, said it was "regrettable" that it took the "unusual measure"
    The popular grammar – rated outstanding by Ofsted – hid devices to watch public spaces.

    The school's headmaster, Dr John Weeds, said it was "regrettable" that it took the "unusual measure" but did so to halt a spate of thefts.

    A spokesman for the National Union of Teachers criticised the move as "not acceptable", adding: "In ordinary parlance, I would say it is illegal."

    According to the Government's Information Commissioner's Office, when it comes to CCTV in schools management must adhere to data protection legislation – which forbids covert cameras.

    Dr Weeds said: "The school sought to protect students and staff by improving its security arrangements. This did include the use of covert equipment and we accept this was an unusual measure. We do not normally condone the use of covert equipment, but this was an exceptional situation and designed purely and simply to stop the thefts.

    "It is regrettable if the installation of the equipment in this case caused anxiety."

    The Head regrets the distress caused, but doesn't apologise. Is he right? Or should he & the school be prosecuted if this is, in fact, illegal?
  2. Didactylos4

    Didactylos4 Star commenter

    I'd say that this was sufficient justification
    "Dr Weeds said: "The school sought to protect students and staff by improving its security arrangements. This did include the use of covert equipment and we accept this was an unusual measure. We do not normally condone the use of covert equipment, but this was an exceptional situation and designed purely and simply to stop the thefts."

    And in spite of the advice from the IC I'm not sure that in the circumstances covert cameras are actually illegal.
  3. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    Why would the cameras need to be hidden to stop thefts?
    Anonymity and FrankWolley like this.
  4. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I've always assumed that cameras are designed to deter, and so need to be visible to do so. Covert filming I tend to associate with peeping toms etc.
    Anonymity likes this.
  5. Didactylos4

    Didactylos4 Star commenter

    To catch the perpetrators before they found somewhere that wasn't covered by cameras?
  6. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Perhaps it was the cameras that were being stolen!
    Didactylos4 likes this.
  7. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    I always said I'd be happy to teach with a permanent live camera. A) it would prevent malicious complaints and B) wouldn't parents struggle in those parent teacher meetings where you played a video of darling johnnie being a total hit.

    Catching the tea leaves? And why not.
  8. Didactylos4

    Didactylos4 Star commenter

    I do a lot of covert filming but, so far at least, the animals haven't complained
    sabrinakat likes this.
  9. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Yes, watching the look on their faces would be priceless:D.
    les25paul likes this.
  10. gedeasy

    gedeasy New commenter

    Hidden surveillance cameras don't just prevent shoplifting, they also play a big role in deterring employee theft. Theft of cash and merchandise by employees is a problem that seems to grow more common with each passing year. and also from school this can prevent bullying, stealing, etc. To catch people who bully ...
  11. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    I have taught in premises with CCTV but not in my actual classroom and certainly not covert. It is the covert bit that I think is very wrong.
  12. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    Taught in a classrom with CCTV. No issues with it. Students knew it was there.
    sabrinakat likes this.
  13. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Not covert then. That was the issue here.
  14. Gibson335

    Gibson335 New commenter

    For eleven years I have single-handedly managed an internal exclusion room in a large secondary school, nowadays an Academy (when I say single-handedly I mean precisely that). My world is exactly eight paces long and three paces wide and I am a permanent fixture, with no opportunity to become involved elsewhere in the school. At any time there are up to nine pupils in my room, most of whom have been sent to me because they have been disruptive in class or have seriously transgressed against the College rules (smoking/truancy/foul language used towards teachers, etc). My regular charges account for considerably less than half a percent of the students on roll. Behaviour within the room however has been exceptionally good and absconds are scarcer than hens' teeth. We received an 'outstanding' OFSTED classification for student behaviour and I believe I have contributed towards that result. I also coach students one-to-one in a number of academic disciplines - chiefly Maths, English and French, although I am not a qualified teacher.

    A fixed CCTV camera is pointed directly at my desk and records my every movement and conversation, with students and staff, from the moment I arrive at eight am until the end of my working day. Every day of the term; every term of the year. I do not possess the required permissions to review any of the recorded footage.

    The camera does not cover six of the eight screened booths in the room *at all*, and only shows partial views (one rear view and the very top of one student's head) of my charges. I find the targeting of the camera insidious and oppressive as it allows my every instant management decision (of which dozens need to be made every day, particularly as I operate in splendid isolation) to be forensically deconstructed, frame-by-frame and with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight.

    Recordings include personal conversations with other school staff, before and after the school day. Although I have dealt with a throughput of literally thousands of students over the years, there has only been one occasion to my knowledge where CCTV footage has been reviewed to evidence a student's aberrant behaviour in the room (throwing a desk and a heavy swivel chair and using industrial-strength language; no additional sanction for the individual involved resulted from this); however on two occasions in the past eleven years, the footage has been used to enforce disciplinary action against me for chance remarks I made, and on one recent occasion - apparently under the 'Safeguarding' banner - I was asked to explain a 'suspicious movement' that, it was suggested, gave the impression that I might have been snorting drugs or taking 'poppers': I'm 63 years old, and the risibility of the idea was lost on the Principal when I was invited to review the tape.

    IMHO this is Big Brother personified. Discuss.....
  15. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter


    I am aghast.

    Union, needs to approached.

    Also how long is film kept?
  16. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Time to retire....?
  17. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Can you rearrange the furniture in the room?
  18. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    We have a 'Time Out' room which has been deliberately placed in an isolated part of the school to avois students passing by disrupting the miscreants in there. At my request as NASUWT rep the room was equipped with two wide range CCTV cameras. This was to give a measure of protection to the staff (we do one period a fortnight in there) as we would be alone in a sparsely populated part of the building with potential troublemakers. The room is signed according to regulations regarding the recording equipment. As far as I am aware using covert cameras would constitute an offence.
  19. Gibson335

    Gibson335 New commenter

    Any reply I make to the above comments would be likely to invite criticism for apparent sour grapes on my part - and I am already uncomfortable that I could easily be personally identified from the details of the posting I made - and disciplined accordingly: Suffice be it to say that I well understand how CCTV can *theoretically* afford a measure of protection to staff - but at a considerable consequential cost - and, as that postulation has not had to be tested, it remains exactly that - a completely theoretical argument.

    The furniture and screened booths are fixed in position and there is no easy way to rearrange the working environment. I could - at length - go on to give numerous, non-theoretical, instances of how satisfying a notional 'quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' query can actually work to drive a coach and horses through personal rights - but to do so would Involve breaches of confidentiality that would be unacceptable both to me and to the College Leadership Team.

    I am not a union member - a take home salary of £1100 a month does not leave a great deal of scope to pay union subscriptions - and therefore I do not benefit from any support: I have to fight my own battles. If I had the luxury of only being put in this invidious position for one period a fortnight (see Blazer's comment above), then I could probably laugh it off - but as I am under the microscope every minute of every working day, with the exception of a 30-minute lunch break (which incidentally has to be taken at a time that does not coincide with the breaks of other staff members) then I feel justified in being aggrieved and that is the motivation for my 'structured whine'. Retirement? A lovely pipe-dream - but impossible of course as I need to continue to generate income to pay the bills.
  20. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    With all due respect, being a Union member these days is not a luxury...
    wanet likes this.

Share This Page