By Graeme Paton
Schools are using CCTV cameras to spy on pupils in toilets and monitor teachers’ performance in the classroom, according to an official report.
The use of video surveillance has evolved in recent years from a security measure to a tool to keep checks on children and staff, it was disclosed.
A report by the Information Commissioner’s Office warned that many schools were flouting guidance on CCTV which insists cameras should only be used to monitor behaviour in exceptional circumstances.
Earlier this year, schools in the US sparked outrage when they used lap-top computer webcams to spy on pupils at home.
The latest study suggested that such practices were “more likely in the UK” as the Government brings in growing numbers of private companies to run schools.
Teaching unions already complain that surveillance technology has been installed in the majority of schools with little notice paid to privacy and civil liberties legislation.
Figures from one union found as many as 85 per cent of teachers reported the use of CCTV in their schools and one-in-10 said cameras had even been placed in toilets.
The latest study, which features contributions from a series of academics, said: “The use of CCTV 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.”
The report added that some schools failed to understand “their new regulatory responsibilities” as the nature of CCTV usage has changed.
“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’ homes in the USA,” said the study.
The Information Commissioner’s Office – a quango set up to promote data protection and uphold transparency among public bodies – said that complaints over the use of CCTV had risen in recent years.
It said that growing numbers of school staff reported that “CCTV installed to control pupil behaviour has been used to monitor their teaching performance”.