Only one chooses 'the Edinburgh route'

20th December 2002 at 00:00
Most of Scotland's local authorities have produced guidelines governing the videoing of school events and performances, but leave decisions to the discretion of headteachers, according to 16 councils contacted by The TESS.

The approaches of the authorities range from "no restrictions" in Aberdeen, Argyll and Bute and Clackmannanshire to the requirement in East Lothian, similar to the suspended Edinburgh guidelines, to have school staff conduct the videoing if any parent objects to his or her child being filmed. The videos or photographs are then edited to respect the wishes of parents.

David Cameron, head of education in East Lothian, said: "We feel that we have to respect the raised public concern about paedophile activity and the exploitation of the images of children and our advice to schools asks them to alert all parents to any public performances and to give them the opportunity to object to the performances being filmed or photographed."

None of the authorities contacted indicated that they would go down "the Edinburgh route," as one described it. All respect the right of parents to withdraw their child if they so wish and some, such as East Renfrewshire and Falkirk, issue consent forms to parents at the beginning of the school session.

Graeme Young, director of education in Falkirk, said that since the authority had updated its guidelines earlier this year to include the use of new media within schools, there had been no concerns raised by either parents or staff. "We take a pragmatic approach where we leave parents and headteachers to talk through the most suitable opportunity to film or photograph the pupils involved. This arrangement appears to suit everyone."

A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire said its guidelines require schools to seek parental permission for pupils under 16 prior to filming taking place. Within these "protocols," headteachers exercise the right to authorise filming as and when requested.

The Western Isles does not have a "blanket ban" on filming but parents have the right to withdraw their child. Highland leaves decisions to headteachers though the council is currently addressing the issue. Orkney requires parental consent only if named children's images are to be used in promotional material or publications outwith the school.

In Perth and Kinross, where written permission is required before a child can be photographed or filmed, a spokesperson said that local solutions are sought "wherever possible" and headteachers are required to use their discretion and judgement in applying the authority's guidelines.

Christine Dignan, group manager of schools in Dumfries and Galloway, told the TESS the authority had decided not to ban the taking of photographs or videos of school events in favour of "a measured and sensible approach" by headteachers. Consent may, however, be necessary if a photograph or video is for public relations purposes. "To date, this has not been an issue of concern in schools," she added.

The confusion over the issues is illustrated in Clackmannanshire's statement which, contrary to Edinburgh's interpretation, claims that "there are no apparent data protection or human rights concerns about parents filming or photographing children taking part in school plays or sports events."

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