CCTV has been present in our schools and classrooms from at least around 2008-2009. Whilst it is still unclear exactly how many schools currently have CCTV installations, we can be sure that the number will only rise over the coming years. CCTV in both schools and classrooms is a very emotive subject. In this article we will briefly discuss the arguments for and against (advantages and disadvantages) the use of CCTV within schools.
Advocates of placing CCTV in schools and classrooms generally point to the following arguments; safety and security (teachers, students and the schools' property are safer), that CCTV also helps build trust as well as identify poor teachers and those "disruptive" children. Deterrent; that the use of CCTV deters students, teachers and school visitors from illegal or anti-social acts.
Whilst I can understand the use of CCTV in the perimeters of a school, in order to deter/identify those who may wish to break into a school, cause damage and steal property. I do have genuine concerns about how CCTV has been deployed. For example, in 2010 a case involved cameras being installed within the children's toilets in a school in Chelmsley Wood (as a security measure). Neither the parents nor children had been informed of the use of CCTV, and the cameras appeared without any prior notice. Understandably parents were very unhappy regarding this invasion of their children's privacy.
Of course we want our children to be secure and safe within our schools. At the same time though we need to ensure that they are within a free relaxed learning environment. Schools are not prisons, and the increased use of CCTV in the classroom arguably does not produce an environment condusive for learning. There is the question of our civil liberties and the psychological impact that this can have on teachers, students and parents.
Please let me point out, that as a proponent of online learning with the use of a webcam, that this is entirely different to having a host of CCTV cameras tracking your every move within a school environment, often without your knowledge or permission. Our one-to-one lessons are specifically aimed to provide quality help, assistance and education between teacher and student, in a similar way that this could happen in a face to face environment. Moreover, both teachers and students are able to teach and learn from the comfort and safety of their respective homes at times suitable for them, without having to physically travel to meet-up in person.
There have been few studies examining the use of CCTV in schools, but the most notable survey carried out by Dr Emmeline Taylor from the University of Salford made very interesting reading. In 2009 Dr Taylor surveyed 24 comprehensive schools in the North West of England and discovered that 23 had installed more than 20 cameras. 85% of teachers have reported the use of CCTV in their schools and one-in-10 claimed that cameras had even been placed in toilets. In the name of security it was also reported that some schools were introducing other techniques such as fingerprinting, metal detectors, electronic identity cards, eye scanners and facial recognition systems. Amazingly, some of the schools are collecting images without informing teachers, pupils or parents. Dr Taylor also felt that she had found no evidence that the rise of cameras in schools was providing schools with a solution to the problems (crime, bullying, smoking, truancy) the CCTV was supposed to fix.
Dr Taylor concludes; "The effectiveness of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime remains extremely dubious, and its impact upon more trivial behaviours such as playing truant has not been measured. CCTV is often attributed with numerous benefits that often there is no evidence to suggest that it can deliver on."
So, what do you believe? Do you think CCTV should be allowed in both schools and classrooms? Do you feel that the use of CCTV is condusive to a positive open learning environment? Do you feel that "George Orwell's' 1984 was a warning and not a blueprint?" We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences whether you are a student, parent, teacher or someone who cares about this controversial topic.
We want our students and teachers to be safe and secure, but also within an environment where teachers can teach and students can grow and learn. Is there a happy balance between the two?