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Special report: CCTV cameras used in school toilets

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CCTV cameras have been installed in school toilets in a school in Wales. Nickie Brander, Campaigns Organiser for ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) responds to public concerns

A recent BBC new story reported that a 14 year old girl was withdrawn from a school in Wales because of CCTV cameras in the toilets. This was featured on a Radio 2 phone-in and callers expressed outraged at the invasion of privacy.

CCTV cameras in toilets in secondary schools are quite common

In 2004 the Bog Standard campaign was launched by a coalition of organisations, led by the children’s charity ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence). The aim is to improve school toilets. It found that CCTV cameras in toilets in secondary schools are quite common.

The coalition recommend that CCTV cameras should be used only when all other options have been tried and failed.

The advantage with CCTV cameras is that they may allow toilets to remain open that would otherwise be locked due to fear of vandalism and misbehaviour.

Cameras may also make pupils feel safer. Bullying can take place anywhere in school, but one of the hotspots are the toilets, where it can occur undetected and prevent many children from going to the toilet. Pupils report that they avoid using the toilets and hang on in desperation until they get home.

CCTV cameras are a highly contentious issue, as the radio coverage demonstrated, and it is difficult to get the balance right between protecting safety and protecting privacy.

Schools should be encouraged to use alternatives to CCTV

The Bog Standard campaign website encourages schools to try out alternative options first. If cameras are used, schools should at least ensure that they safeguard privacy, for example, cameras are sited outside main entrances/exits to toilets and washrooms, are not directed at cubicles, and pupils and parents should be consulted before they are installed.

In the long-term, toilets that are sited in the heart of the school, near staff areas and are designed to avoid corners to lurk in and have visible wash hand areas, can eradicate the need for CCTV cameras altogether.

Further reading:

Enuresis, bladder and bowel dysfunction in children - resources for nurses

Useful links

www.bog-standard.org (campaign for better toilets for pupils)

www.wateriscoolinschool.org.uk (campaign for drinking water provision for pupils)

www.trusteric.org.uk (teens’ section of main site)

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