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Martha Fairlie reports
"The council says that in view of the groundswell of opinion they've put interim arrangements in place"
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Friday, 15 December, 2000, 16:22 GMT
Row over filming school shows
The Payne family
Michael Payne filmed sons Ben and Daniel anyway
A council has revised its ban on parents filming their children in school plays, following an outcry over the decision.

Head teachers have been advised that they may make arrangements before or after the performance to allow parents to photograph their own child in costume

Council education convenor Margo Lennie
Perth and Kinross Council had acted after some parents, apparently worried about paedophiles getting hold of the films, objected to their children being photographed.

But others complained that it stopped them recording precious moments in their children's lives.

Now the council has come up with what it hopes is a compromise and intends to consult people on how best to reconcile the different points of view.

What message are we passing on to the children about the world?

Judith Gillespie, Scottish Parent Teacher Council
Earlier it had said there might be Data Protection or Human Rights Act privacy issues involved, but has retracted that.

And at least one furious parent defied the ban.

Michael Payne, whose sons Ben and Daniel attend Moncreiffe Primary School in Perth, said he took his camera along to the school's Christmas concert anyway.

"I was absolutely furious," he said.

Children's safety

"My grievance is not with the school - it's a good school - I'm just baffled by the council."

Perth and Kinross Council, which is responsible for 88 schools, said its main concern was the safety of children.

cllr margo lennie
Margo Lennie: "Child protection issue"
"The decision was made partly in response to objections raised by a significant number of parents to their children being photographed or filmed on school premises," said its convenor of education and children's services, Margo Lennie.

"And partly from a policy view that there was a child protection issue involved."

But following the "groundswell of opinion" she was telling head teachers to let parents photograph their own child in costume before or after a performance.

She now wants to devise a policy which will be "comprehensive, practicable and take account of the sensitivities surrounding this issue".

Data protection confusion

"Regrettably we wrongly advised some parents that it was a Data Protection Act requirement and we apologise for this mis-information," she said.

She added that the commissioner for data protection advice had "pointed out that it was good practice not to allow photography and filming".

But the data protection officer who advised the council, Rob Mechan, told BBC News Online the only concern might be if pictures were to be published of identified children, in which case it would be wise to seek their parents' consent.

He said the Data Protection Act had a specific exemption for people taking pictures for their own domestic use.

'Rights culture'

Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said the case highlighted a "ridiculous rights culture" afflicting society, and appealed for a return to reality.

"Are we going to have all the children in the street walking around in full veils?" she said.

"What message are we passing on to the children about the world?

"It's right to tell them to be sensible and not go off with strangers even if they offer them sweets, but there's a difference between that and saying that everyone else in the world is malign."

Website worries

The fuss in Perth and Kinross coincides with new advice to schools from Edinburgh City Council which warns of the dangers of putting pictures of youngsters on the web.

It says a website can provide a showcase for the activities of staff and pupils.

"A school website without pictures of pupils would appear very dry and seem unrealistic but if pupils are identified on a school website and contacted by outsiders the school could be held responsible for placing the child in potential danger," the guidelines say.

Among other points:

  • Parents must give written permission for photographs to be used.
  • Material "should always be within an educational context" and any credits should not use pupils' surnames.
  • Only in exceptional circumstances - such as national awards - should a school publish a photograph of an individual pupil.
  • The children themselves should have had advice on personal safety on the internet.
Particular care is needed with sporting events.

"No matter what activity is being depicted no child should ever be shown in a partial state of undress," the document adds, in bold type.

A council spokeswoman said there were concerns that digital images of children could provide the raw material for paedophiles to manipulate into pornography.

In July last year a school in Yorkshire asked parents not to film its sports day for fear paedophiles would get hold of the images.

Edinburgh's schools are also warned of the security risk in putting photographs and plans of their buildings on the web - something many schools do, often as part of a "virtual tour".

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | UK
Talking at cross purposes
19 Feb 00 | Education
Children warned against net predators
15 Jul 99 | Education
Parents asked not to video sports day
08 Dec 98 | Education
School bans videos of Christmas play
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