CCTV in York Schools (and new research which says it’s a total waste of time)

York_press An alarming exclusive from Gavin Aitchison over at the York Press:half of York’s secondary schools have been filming pupils on CCTV without telling parents.

The Press found that all ten secondaries in the city have cameras installed, but only four had informed parents before installation:

The findings came as calls were made for the cameras to be taken out of schools or switched off, after research claimed they could be doing more harm than good.

New academic studies indicate that rather than bringing benefits, CCTV in schools can fuel suspicion, indoctrinate children into a culture of surveillance and may even be illegal.

The city’s education boss, Carol Runciman, said CCTV had gone too far in society as a whole:It’s important that young people have their privacy when they need it and we should not see CCTV as the answer to any problems schools may have.

Our friend Terri Dowty over at Arch Rights said that CCTV should be used only outside school hours, for site security, and not for internal discipline, and schools had a moral duty to tell pupils and parents when it was being used.

Here are the details of the relevant research:

Dr Emmeline Taylor, a criminologist and researcher at Salford University, said no independent research had shown CCTV to benefit schools, despite its widespread use.

She has conducted two new studies, due to be published later this year, examining how CCTV in schools fits with the Data Protection Act, and studying pupils’ views of cameras.

She found many pupils saw cameras as “symptomatic of an underlying mistrust of them” and as the “embodiment of suspicion”. She said there was also evidence they could even cause some pupils to misbehave, as they felt they were seen as troublemakers anyway.

Dr Taylor also said the Data Protection Act was not strong enough to ensure that schools followed the law. “Without specific guidelines for schools and stringent regulation, it is likely that numerous schools will not be adhering to the law." Her other paper concluded: “Schools are contributing to the emergence of a surveillance society and fundamentally habituating young people to accept a heightened level of scrutiny.”

She said it was a “crucial time” for more research and called for an informed public debate about whether such technology was advantageous.

Fulford School is the only one in the city to have installed cameras in the pupils’ toilets – an issue we've covered many times, most recently here. The Headmaster apparently thinks that this is justified because of vandalism in the toilets at lunchtimes and breaks, which hitherto the school has failed to control. He said cameras covered sinks and floorspace. Fulford’s footage is apparently only viewed "when deemed necessary" – which I think is supposed to be reassuring..!

Huntington School has 113 cameras, more than the 75 the council has for the whole of the city centre. The Headmaster told the Press that "the cameras were on all the time and had caused no upset."

Well, yes. And the level of "upset" will go down more over time. Children exposed to this high level of surveillance during their
formative years will come to consider it normal. Perhaps that's the
point…

By Alex Deane