CCTV in Schools
There has been a lot of negative press recently regarding CCTV systems in schools, with parents and outside organisations complaining that some cameras are positioned in inappropriate areas. This press has come as a result of a report undertaken and published by Big Brother Watch, showing that there is an average ratio of 1:38 cameras to pupils in British secondary schools. The report also highlights that there is an average of 24 cameras in each secondary school, and more than 200 schools have cameras in the toilets and changing rooms.
There is an on-going debate as to whether putting cameras around the interior of schools, including in the changing and toilet areas, is ethical or simply a breach of privacy. The pros and cons will be discussed below, beginning with the negative argument.
One of the main issues raised by the report was the fact that the Home Office code of practice for CCTV cameras does not apply to all establishments funded by the government. This means that schools could install CCTV cameras in an unethical manner as there is nobody to govern them in this venture. If the policy did stretch to all schools then they would all have equal ability to install CCTV only in the areas specified, this would result in no discrepancy on the positioning of cameras.
It is currently up to the staff and governors of the school as an individual entity to plan where the CCTV system will be installed. This leads to questions being asked of how thoroughly the positioning of the cameras has been investigated to give the most benefit, and indeed, what these intended benefits are. Many opponents to the notion of CCTV in schools have branded the installations as inappropriate and an invasion of privacy.
The invasion of privacy argument mainly refers to the installation of CCTV in changing rooms and bathrooms. Many people looking at the initial report could misinterpret the findings; the cameras in changing rooms and bathrooms are not in any toilet cubicles or focused on children getting changed, they are simply in safe areas such as by the wash-basins or the entry to the changing rooms. The cameras are not installed in order to see children in areas of privacy, more so to monitor the coming and going of pupils.
Remaining on the topic of privacy, even though the cameras are there recording throughout the day, there is not someone physically watching this footage 24/7. The footage is likely to only be watched in the event of an incident occurring which needs to be reviewed, and even then the personnel involved it watching it will be fast forwarding to the appropriate piece of footage, thus the rest is still not viewed. Overall then, this cannot be seen as an invasion of privacy if there is nobody watching it!
The issues of bullying and vandalism in schools are a daily recurring occurrence. CCTV installations are a big tool in the prevention or minimisation of these actions. This is because the initial installation of CCTV makes the children aware that they are on camera and their actions are being filmed, thus the threat of consequences for inappropriate behaviour is greater, deterring the behaviour in the first place. As time goes by and children become accustomed to the cameras they become an excellent source of evidence of any incidents that may have occurred. This means that there can be consequences to any acts of violence, bullying or vandalism as the culprits will be caught on tape. There is an argument that the actions captured on film can sometimes lead to the wrong person being identified as the culprit, however, with improved CCTV cameras, the images they feedback are very clear, meaning that this is an unlikely occurrence.
Overall then, the provision of CCTV in schools is a well contested issue. However, it appears that the positive effects of having the cameras outweigh the negative views when the cameras are installed ethically. Unison CCTV, a Birmingham-based CCTV installation company, only installs CCTV systems in an ethical manner, under strict instruction and consultation with school staff and personnel. They adhere to the current code of practice for CCTV cameras, ensuring that their work is professional.
Unison has worked with a number of schools and organisations within the West Midlands area, and beyond, including the King Edwards Foundation schools and Hillcrest School and VI Form Centre. Their CCTV installations have always been completed in line with instructions from the school personnel, as well as using their industry knowledge and expertise to advise on any potential issues in terms of camera placement. Their ethical working practices, teamed with extensive knowledge and experience of school CCTV installations makes them a brilliant choice and great ambassador for this type of surveillance security.