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The law on ... Taking photographs

Basic issues

There is no specific law that governs taking photos of children in schools. It is only when someone takes an unfortunate and unhealthy interest in taking photos of children - as was alleged at a nursery in Devon last week - that various authorities become involved and it becomes illegal and potentially a criminal offence.

In May 2004, section 45 of the Sex Offences Act 2003 amended Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 by raising the age of a "child" from 16 to 18. This means that it is now an offence to "take, make, allow to take, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, or advertise indecent photos or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18".

Schools should have clear policies and procedures to deal with this issue. They should ensure that parents sign a consent form that permits their child to be photographed at school events, for example. It is important that the school does not rely on a blanket acceptance and has evidence in writing that consent by the parent andor guardian has been given.

The form should also advise the parent that their child's picture may be displayed within the school building, within school material andor on the school website. The parent should be given the option to choose and to provide consent or not, to one or all of the options.

Next steps

The following steps should be taken into account to reduce any misuse of the image:

  • Avoid using full names in captions.
  • Avoid using any names if the image could point to a specific location.
  • Consider how a child is dressed when using the photo.
  • Always use a parental consent form.
  • Ensure you have obtained the child's permission to use their image.
    • Be aware of the Data Protection Act and the use and storage of materials with people's names and images included on them. Specific permissions must be sought for this from the persons and, where applicable, their parents.

      What to watch out for

      It is advisable to use more caution than not when using photographs of children for display purposes.

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