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Authorities seek code to prevent press abuse

Inspectors' report a damning indictment of errors and omissions that led to a crisis at The Ridings School.

There should be a new code of conduct to prevent journalists paying children to "act up for the camera", says the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.

Meeting at last week's annual conference in Salford, council leaders called on the Press Complaints Commission to protect schools from "offensive and intrusive press behaviour." It wants a new professional code that would also safeguard the privacy of individual children and promote responsible press coverage of children's issues.

The conference passed a resolution that "noted with concern the impact of intense media attention upon pupils attending schools in situations of difficulty or conflict."

The Ridings School in Halifax has been the particular focus of intense media scrutiny.

The daily coverage has featured pupils apparently more than willing to misbehave for the benefit of journalists.

Graham Lane, chair of the AMA education committee, accused the media of exploiting children for the sake of entertaining pictures.

"It has to be questioned whether the actions of all the media have been warranted. It cannot be right to pay young children to act up for the cameras. It is difficult to see how the use of zoom-lens cameras on cranes outside schools can contribute to resolving difficult situations I reporting has begun to look more like exploitation and abuse."

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