Headteachers have condemned a “retouching” service being offered by a school photography company, which says it can “remove blemishes,” “whiten teeth” and “even skin tone” on pictures of primary-aged pupils.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says it is important to “teach children to have confidence and pride in who they are” rather than alter their appearance using technology.
It has joined more than a thousand people, including parents, teachers and celebrities, in speaking out against the practice, which was highlighted on Twitter by former BBC broadcaster Sam Walker, whose daughters were offered the service at their school in the US.
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ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “It does not send out the right message at a time when we know that children can feel anxious and confused by the plethora of unrealistic images of ‘perfection’ that they see in the media and social media.”
What kind of a school is this? Pupil wellbeing is clearly not on their agenda. We should be telling kids that it doesn’t matter how they look, not that they need their teeth whitened! This is actually appalling. I hope the parents/teachers made a huge fuss.— Teacher's Manual (@UnofficialOA) October 29, 2019
More than 1,300 people have commented on the Twitter post, including as Paralympian gold medallist Tanni Grey-Thompson who tweeted that “this is awful”.
Jo Frost, from Channel 4 's Supernanny, tweeted: “And we wonder why our young girls from the age of 5 are growing up with so many mental and emotional issues…here's one of them!”
Ms Walker tweeted a picture of the form, which was handed out at her daughters’ school in Phoenix, Arizona, US, where she now lives. She said: “What eight-year-old needs to be paranoid about an ‘uneven skin tone?’”
@austennerd, from Cornwall, tweeted: “That is genuinely shocking…I mean seriously. With the mental health crisis kids are facing: they don’t need this kind of message. I love the fact my kids’ school pictures are generally awful. Isn’t that the whole point?”
@HISalesAcadem tweeted: “This is appalling. My daughter has 9 per cent full-thickness burns and we have never attempted to hide her scars in photos. We just taught her that she is amazing as she is.”
@Embee_effect, a parent from the South East, tweeted: “Surely the child will pick up on their parents' request for airbrushing and think they're not good enough even for their parents, who should love them regardless and be building their child's body confidence? Thank goodness I wasn't asked this 20 years ago!”
Sam Walker's post has so far been liked more than 8,000 times and been retweeted more than 2,000 times.