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Anorak | CCTV in schools: ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’

CCTV in schools: ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’

by | 13th, September 2012

WHAT is the purpose of placing CCTV cameras in schools? Is it to collect data on pupils and teachers? Is it an attempt by the officials to prove how in control they are and how much they care for the student and staff body? The CCTV camera represents interaction. Don’t discuss and inspire. Just command and be omnipresent. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” So goes the mantra.

In 2008, the Examination Officers’ Association (EOA) conducted a pilot scheme that it hoped would catch out cheats. EOA chief executive Andrew Harland, said back then:

“There is a growing problem of security and we’re trying to come to terms with that. CCTV would work, both for officers and for the students, in alleviating problems of accusations and speculation. I’m not a ‘big brother’ fan, but you have increasing numbers of people who don’t know the students in the hall.”

People have always cheated. CCTV is installed because its lazy and works on the hideous premise that everyone is a prospective cheat. And that includes the teachers.

CCTV has been embraced by the officials at King’s Heath Boys’ maths and computing college in Birmingham. The comprehensive school boasts 86 CCTV cameras — one for every seven of the 580 pupils.

Huntington secondary school in York, North Yorkshire, features 113 cameras for 1,482 pupils — more CCTV cameras than the whole of York city centre, which is covered by 78.

Fulford school, also in York, has cameras in the toilets.

Phil Gibbs, deputy head teacher at King’s Heath, tells us:

“The existence of CCTV provides both a deterrent and evidence of any incidents which may require investigation. Following staff consultation, cameras are also in practical teaching areas, which include technology, science and physical education, along with our new state-of-the-art library block.”

Do the cameras teach children to live in fear?

Len Holman, the head of Angel Road Junior School in Norwich, said the children want it:

“There were some isolated incidents of vandalism, occurring mainly because pupils of course can’t be monitored by adults in toilet areas. The pupils saw that there was available space on the security system operating in the school and asked whether TV cameras could be installed to prevent further vandalism.”

So. the school is using CCTV to connect with the students. But isn’t it eroding a child’s freedom?

What does Robert Cox think of CCTV in the classroom? Mr Cox, 59, was a teacher at Bemrose School, Derbyshire. He’s been sacked in light on an incident captured on CCTV. The school received no complaint from the pupil’s parents. The governors sacked Mr Cox.

The local paper says Mr Cox is depressed he has since twice attempted suicide. He says:

“It has had a huge impact on me. I can’t get another job now and our financial situation is dire, to say the least.”

The pupil who abused Mr Cos was suspended for four days. Mr Cox adds:

“I worry for my colleagues still there because the message this sends out is that if pupils threaten their teacher, the teacher is likely to be dismissed.”

The paper describes what happened:

It was following a commotion in the school canteen when some boys were “acting up” in front of another teacher. Mr Cox told one of them, a year 11 pupil, to sit down, at which point the teenager launched into a tirade of verbal abuse and then threw his banana milkshake over him.

Mr Cox, who said he had never witnessed such an outburst before, held the boy by the arms and sat him in the seat. He did that repeatedly every time the boy stood up because he said he feared the teenager was about to grab a chair and throw it at fellow pupils or a teacher if he did not restrain him.

When the school canteen emptied, the teenager did pick up a chair and threw it at an empty table.

A panel watched the incident on CCTV.

They did not believe the boy was about to throw a chair, having watched CCTV footage, and thought Mr Cox’s actions and words escalated, rather than calmed, the situation.

Says Mr Cox:

“The grainy CCTV footage from 50ft away did not show what I could see, I could see the look in the boy’s face and I thought he was going to grab a chair.”

The matter reached a tribunal:

Representing the school’s governing body, at the tribunal, Kathryn Duff said Mr Cox had “manhandled” the boy and that the reason the teenager had thrown the chair was because he was “frustrated” with the way Mr Cox had treated him.

Headteacher Jo Ward, head teacher at Bemrose School, adds:

“The senior staff are very experienced and get involved with the children and we have got a very secure understanding of the school. I would point you to the increase in our examination results. Children don’t perform like that if they are misbehaving – they can’t.”

Mr Cox fell foul of that mantra – “nothing to hide so nothing to fear”. He failed to consistently show the watching powers that he was a decent bloke. He did not have to simply teach. He had to prove his compliance. The CCTV camera turns everyone it watching into an object of suspicion. It is utterly corrosive…



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