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Last Updated: Friday, 9 November 2007, 14:13 GMT
Parents' right to film children
Nativity play
Most schools have introduced sensible filming policies
With the festive season almost upon us parents have been given the green light to photograph or film their children in school nativity plays by a government body.

Some schools have previously introduced bans on filming at such events for fear of the material being misused and reaching a wider audience via the internet.

They have even used the Data Protection Act as a reason to prevent any recording of plays, concerts and sports days.

However, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued guidelines to schools and parents which explain that the Act does not apply to filming for private use.

The Act does apply when photographs of children are taken for official use by a school or college, such as for issuing identification passes.

These images are likely to be stored electronically with other personal data and the terms of the Act are relevant.

They do not apply however to a photograph or video or digital recording taken by parents of their child and some friends taking part in the school Sports Day to be put in the family photo album.

I think denying parents the opportunity to celebrate their children's achievements is a great pity
Mick Brookes, general secretary, NAHT
They are all deemed "for personal use" and are exempt from the terms of the Act.

Assistant Commissioner at the ICO Jonathan Bamford said: "This guidance has been issued to reassure friends and family members that they can take photographs of their children and friends taking part in school activities for the family album without contravening the Data Protection Act.

"They can also film events at school.

"The Data Protection Act should not be wrongly cited to stop people taking photographs or filming videos."

'Official' photographer

Although the Act itself cannot stop parents from recording such memorable events, schools can introduce a filming policy which may prevent such activities.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says most schools will have this policy well documented in the school prospectus.

NAHT general secretary Mick Brookes said: "I fail to see why parents should be denied the chance of filming their own children in something that's a great event for them.

"While we urge caution, I think denying parents the opportunity to celebrate their children's achievements is a great pity.

"Most schools have a policy about this and parents need to know what that policy is.

"Most schools have sensible policies in place and most schools have huge numbers of sensible parents who know what's good for their children and other children."

Homefield First School at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk has introduced a policy where parents are not allowed to take photos or film school events, but they have an official photographer who performs this job and sells the products back to parents at cost price.

Head teacher Elizabeth Davis said: "We have a policy where at the start of the school year we ask parents to consent to the school taking pictures of their children in the year ahead.

"We just looked at the situation realistically and it works really well."

She said parents had accepted and adhered to the policy since its introduction nearly three years ago.

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Good Heavens - a sensible interpretation of the data protection act. I may have to go and lie down for a while...
Gavin, Edinburgh

A number of fathers are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a great morale booster for these men to see their children¿s nativity plays. Given that the men who share the same barracks when on active service often have children who attend the same schools, it makes sense to send videos of the play to the regiment concerned. I certainly had no objection at the time of the First Gulf War (1990) to videos of the nativity play in which my children acted being sent to the Gulf so that fathers of my children¿s school-friends could see their own children.
Martin Vlietstra, Fleet, Hampshire

Amazing isn't it - my school 'banned' filming plays for various reasons but graciously allowed me to purchase an 'official' version if I wanted. I politely declined.
Dave, Sunderland

Thank god for the intervention of common sense, however, I still know people who think that if their children appear on the Internet, they will be targeted by weirdos - forgetting of course that pictures in local papers are just a likely - or not - to attract the same weirdos!
Roger Cope, Burton Upon Trent, Staffs

Yes my children's school also banned the use of cameras and video cameras at school plays. Then sold an "official" copy. Interestingly a quarter of the cost of the dvd went towards school funds! When I film my children's school play I focus on my child, the official version lasted an hour, and my child was onscreen for less than 5 minutes. I cant help but feel the schools are using the privacy act as a means to boost funds. As for ending up on the internet who is checking the credibility of these dvd producing companies?
Lorna Mumford, Billericay, Essex

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