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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 17:27 GMT
Council suspends nativity film 'ban'
Parent with video
Parents urged the council to clarify the situation
Edinburgh City Council has suspended controversial guidelines governing the photographing of children involved in school activities.

The move followed the threat of legal action by a parent.

The authority had been criticised for what appeared to be a ban on parents photographing or filming their children at events such as nativity plays, unless all other parents agreed.

Edinburgh City Council guidelines
The council said it would review the guidelines
After an emergency meeting of its education committee on Tuesday, the council announced a review of the guidelines.

They had been introduced in an effort to prevent photographic material of children involved in school activities from falling into the hands of paedophiles.

The council said that no "blanket ban" existed but conceded that the guidelines on photography had been misinterpreted in some schools.

However, later in the afternoon education chiefs decided to suspend the guidelines completely following consultation with council lawyers.

The move followed the threat of legal action by a parent seeking permission to film a child who was due to appear in a school nativity play on Thursday.

Council leader Donald Anderson had earlier said that it was important not to misinterpret the council's position.

He said that speaking as someone who had videoed his own son's participation in a nativity play, the public should know a ban was not in effect.

'Common sense'

"I, as a politician, would never support such a policy," he said.

"What we have is a misunderstanding as to the aims and objectives of the council.

"We have no ban in place, this council would not agree such a policy, and the executive has never considered such a policy.

"At every level of this we need to try and apply common sense and deal with the situation we are in.

"There is no way that these guidelines should be interpreted as a blanket ban on videoing and photography."

Edinburgh's director of education had defended the move to restrict video recordings of nativity plays and concerts.

Ewan Aitken
Ewan Aitken: Support for head teachers

Roy Jobson said there was evidence that paedophiles used such images on the internet.

But he added: "Nowhere in the guidelines does it say there is a ban in place on photography.

"The issue is an extension to a principle the council has already approved about parental permission for photography and videoing taking place."

Ewan Aitken, the council's executive member for education, said it did not want to force parents to have their children on film.

Rather, he said, the guidelines were introduced to provide support to head teachers to make the right decisions.

'PR disaster'

There were seven occasions when parents had refused to give their permission for their children to be filmed, and each time a compromise had been reached, Mr Aitken added.

But Conservative Councillor Brian Meek labelled the row a "public relations disaster" and said there should have been greater consultation before guidelines were issued.

Iain Stewart, one parent affected by the guidelines, said the council must consult parents.

It was vital to strike a balance between children's welfare and disrupting innocent activities, he added.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Isobel Fraser reports
"Parents said the council must clarify the situation"
  Solicitor Elain Motion
"When potential paedophiles are dictating what families can innocently film, the balance has gone"
See also:

16 Dec 02 | Scotland
15 Dec 02 | Scotland
28 Nov 02 | England
15 Dec 00 | Education
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