Pupils ‘chose to put toilets on camera’
Spy cameras fitted in toilets at more than 20 schools across the region, including at one in Bath and North East Somerset, were installed at the request of pupils – and are not the sign of a “Big Brother” society, head teachers have said.
And one head teacher yesterday said that he was “horrified” when the idea was presented to him as a safety measure, but that in seven years there had not been a single complaint.
Figures released yesterday revealed 825 cameras were located in toilets or changing rooms at 207 schools.
Wellsway School in Bath and North East Somerset was one of the 23 schools in the West which included the Blue School in Wells, Somerset; Chilton Trinity Technology College in Bridgwater, Somerset and Dorcan Technology College in Swindon.
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Big Brother Watch, a privacy pressure group which published the figures following a Freedom of Information Act request to more than 2,000 schools, said the discovery “raises serious questions."
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Schools need to come clean about why they are using cameras and what is happening to the footage. Local authorities also need to be doing far more to rein in excessive surveillance in their areas and ensuring resources are not being diverted from more effective alternatives.”
But Steve Jackson, head teacher of the Blue School, which has had CCTV in the toilets for the past seven years, said it was students who wanted the cameras put in place, not the school.
“I was frankly horrified when the students from our Toilet Team came to us with this idea,” he said. “I anticipated negative reactions from the media and parents alike. But it was the students who arranged everything and even broke the news to their parents. In seven years we haven’t had one objection.”
Mr Jackson said the cameras had been put in place to stop the toilets being used inappropriately – for bullying, smoking or drugs.
He added: “It’s passive supervision: The cameras are modestly aligned, they only film the sink area to show who’s going in and out of the cubicles, and the footage is only seen by a very small amount of people.”
Stephen Clark, head teacher at Melksham Oak Community School in Wiltshire, created under the Building Schools for the Future programme, said the cameras make his students feel “secure”. “Not one student or parent has ever complained. We were set up two years ago and we spent a lot of time making sure the toilets were right. This surveillance system was designed with student input and it only covers the wash basin area.”
Although Chilton Trinity Technology College in Bridgwater has had cameras in the toilets for nearly a decade, it does not have them in the changing rooms
Assistant head teacher Gavin Williams said: “This is not another case of the Big Brother society, it’s about the safety and security of our students.
“This is not another case of the Big Brother society, it’s about the safety and security of our students. Our students didn’t feel comfortable knowing that people were outside. The cameras are stationed in the communal areas and it just makes students happier."