CCTV in school toilets ‘for safety of pupils’

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

CCTV cameras are being used to monitor toilet areas in schools in the Sheffield area, it was disclosed this week.

King Ecgbert School in Dore, and Ecclesfield School, each have a dozen cameras installed, and Hinde House School, in Shiregreen, has 10.

All three schools defended the use of cameras, saying they are needed for the safety of pupils as well as to combat anti-social behaviour. Sheffield City Council emphasised the cameras were being restricted to communal areas.

But anti-surveillance group Big Brother Watch said the findings would “come as a shock to many parents”.

Group director Nick Pickles said: “The full extent of school surveillance is far higher than we had expected, and will come as a shock to many. Schools need to come clean about why they are using these 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.”

Ian Peel, assistant director of learning at Sheffield Council, said CCTV cameras are ‘a part of modern life’.

“I would like to reassure all children, young people, and parents that cameras are only placed in communal areas,” he said. “CCTV is a part of modern life these days, and in schools it is about ensuring children enjoy a positive learning environment. I am sure this is something we would all support.”

Lesley Bowes, headteacher at King Ecgbert, said the school has no CCTV in PE changing rooms, and the toilet cameras focused only on the entrance doors.

“They just focus on the door going in to the toilet areas, next to the washbasins. All you can see is the door from the corridor opening, and who has gone in.

“They are not monitored live at all. They are simply viewed on the very few occasions where we’ve maybe had an incident we want to follow up.”

Mrs Bowes said the cameras were installed outside each toilet and the footage is wiped automatically after 36 hours.

“All of our students are aware these cameras are there, and nobody has ever expressed any concern about it,” she added.

Joel Wirth, head at Ecclesfield, said: “We don’t have any CCTV cameras in changing rooms. The cameras in the toilets are entirely focused on the communal wash areas, and there is no facility to oversee what happens in the urinals or cubicles.

“Like every school, our overriding commitment is to the safety of our young people, and we think our CCTV system plays an important role in that. We’re 100 per cent confident the system is safe and secure.”

Mr Wirth said the number of incidents of damage and bullying had reduced since the cameras were installed.

Hinde House School headmaster Chris French did not comment.

A total of 825 cameras were located in the toilets or changing rooms of 207 schools in the UK.