Schools to make teacher body cams permanent to blitz bad behaviour


Three secondary schools in England are piloting the use of body-worn cameras for teachers to tackle bad behaviour, with two already vowing to deploy them in the long term.

Southfields Academy in south-west London, together with a further two unidentified schools, are deploying the surveillance technology amidst its growing use within the public sector.

At Southfields, four teachers across different parts of the school have been wearing the cameras since September. Deputy headteacher Larry Davis believes their presence has helped to “de-escalate” confrontations now that pupils realise their actions are going to be captured on film if they don’t stop the inappropriate behaviour.

“My aim is how best can we just focus on the teaching and learning rather than dealing with confrontations,” said Davis. “Since we have introduced [them] we have very few issues in regards to that – maybe once a month.”

Davis said that there have been no “adverse” comments to date by pupils who have seen teachers wearing the cameras. However, consultation was limited to the parents’ forum and key members of staff.

He is keen to continue using the equipment after the trial concludes around Easter.

An unnamed school in South Hampshire decided to try out the camera to protect staff and students in light of high levels of anti-social behaviour caused by unknown children coming on to the school site from outside.

The school has six cameras worn by staff across the school, including the headteacher, according to a case study compiled by Reveal, a body-worn camera provider that has loaned its Calla brand cameras to the three pilot schools.

Each wears a hi-vis jacket with “body worn video” written across the back to make clear that recording may take place.

Footage can be presented to the police as evidence, and arrests of young people have been made, said the headteacher.

The case study reads: “We’re definitely going to keep going with the cameras. It’s not something we can come back from because of what it has done for us as a tool to safeguard our students.”

The company Reveal is currently discussing the possibility of an evaluation with the schools.

Body-worn cameras are already embedded within policing and in prisons and are increasingly being used within the NHS.

Last week, Ofsted announced that teams inspecting suspected illegal schools will wear cameras from next month for their own safety.

But the notion of teachers sporting a front-facing camera on their chest to film unruly pupils has proved more controversial.

In 2017, there was an initial flurry of debate when it emerged that two un-named schools were trying out body-worn cameras to help control classroom behaviour.

Both pilots were subsequently dropped – at least one of which was due to the negative publicity that ensued.

But Ben Read, head of marketing for Reveal, said there has been a resurgence of interest from schools this academic year, with around ten schools getting in touch over the past four months. “There are varying reasons, but most of them are to do with the safety of staff and students,” he added.

But some observers, such as Silkie Carl, director of Big Brother Watch, said the cameras are “intrusive surveillance devices that have no place in our schools… Young people shouldn’t see teachers as walking CCTV cameras, or fear being filmed without their consent. There is no evidence that recording children deals with the causes of behavioural issues but it can create oppressive environments, and so we urge these schools to reconsider.”

When the camera is switched on to film an incident, the default option means that the footage is encrypted and it cannot be edited prior to being uploaded to a secure Cloud account.

The market cost for the cameras is a one-off payment of £249 for the hardware and £15 a month for storage of the footage.

The Department for Education said it does not collect information on the use of body-worn cameras in schools and believes schools are best placed to decide how to manage pupil behaviour and security risks – subject to respecting the laws surrounding data protection and privacy issues.

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  1. Wearing body cameras in prisons or in the NHS is completely different from wearing them in schools. Is this an admission by the head teachers in these schools that they are not in control and that the teachers are not coping? I would also worry about any roll out of this lunacy – would it be used to control teachers as well as pupils?

    This seems to me to be a result of the intense focus on league tables and the drive to improve exam results at the expense of children’s education, leading to the rejection of so many. It is also, perhaps, another result of the disillusion of so many experienced teachers who are leaving.

    Whatever the reasons behind the decision, it is an admission of failure by the headteacher and the senior staff.

    • You clearly have no idea what working in a school is like at times.
      I have been in education for 19 years and my husband for 25 years. This has nothing to do with losing control of behaviour and all to do with keeping up with technology and also and more importantly the growing trend of defiance and student and parental refusal to accept responsibility for behaviour.
      Many a time I have told a parent of a behaviour displayed by a child and they refuse to believe it until they are shown CCTV footage of said behaviour.

      CCTV has been used to clarify bullying issues which has saved the mental health of many a student in my time and I will never apologise for using video recordings for this purpose !!

      In reference to one of your comments in particular, of course it is used to monitor staff as well, Headteachers are far from stupid and are well aware that staff can also fall foul of human nature and make mistakes on occasion and these recording would be, and have been, used to assist in investigations and form the basis for ongoing training within schools.

      Video recordings in educational settings are always only ever seen by the professionals that work there and / or relevant authorities if necessary. These are the people that parents have trusted to look after their children which is exactly what it is for…to ensure that educational staff can continue to effectively look after and educate your children.

      Schools also have a variety of forms and communication avenues for
      parents so if a parent was vehemently against a child being recorded then any footage would be avoided or dealt with accordingly. I have found that parents are usually more than happy for it to be used however as they understand in general that it is necessary in some circumstances.

      You cannot stop the advancement of technology and schools are well within their rights to use what is available in order to achieve consistent and effective results for the next generation whilst respecting and upholding privacy laws in the UK.

  2. Surveillance is increasing exponentially in our society, one may argue, with confidence the facts would bear the argument out. That HTs and CEOs and councils are continuing to ignore this at best and resist at worse, in the main, is laudable. The venom expressed above for what is certainly a tiny minority, is much more telling.

  3. Shawn

    I think that in the current political climate it is becoming necessary to observe what is being taught in our classrooms. I have seen many, MANY, videos of teachers berating their students for their beliefs, skin colour, and more. In some schools it’s already been exposed that teachers are encouraged to make white kids feel “less than”. Ultimately, people have a right to know what is being taught to their kids in schools. I support teachers being made to wear bodycams. 100%