BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Citizenship: Criminal justice system

Last Updated: Monday June 19 2006 15:09 GMT

CCTV: Privacy or safety?

Crime and justice


Surveillance camera mounted on rooftop (Picture: 1998 EyeWire, Inc.)
Queen's School in Wisbech has installed CCTV cameras in its toilets to keep an eye on pupils.

Advocates of CCTV in schools say the footage can be used to confront bullies and their parents with evidence of their behaviour.

Students evaluate a proposal to put CCTV in their school classrooms.

Learning aims
  • Pros and cons of CCTV
  • Cost benefit analysis of a CCTV proposal

Camera map

Distribute a map of the school, playground and fields/pitches to each student.

Explain: Use a highlighter pen to mark all the places you think CCTV cameras would be useful in helping to stop bullying.

Use another colour of highlighter to mark all the places where you think it would be an invasion of privacy to put CCTV cameras.

Main activity

CCTV in your school - proposal

Read the following message to the students:

The school governors have agreed to provide funding so that CCTV will be installed across the campus. The cameras will be placed in all classrooms, all corridors, the playground areas and the canteen.

CCTV surveillance will also cover the washing areas of the toilets (not in cubicles), the changing areas of the PE department (not showers), the three bus stops nearest the school and also a newsagent's shop popular with students on their way home.

The governors invite students to respond to this proposal.

In small groups students put together their response to the plan.

To be as convincing as possible they use a structured cost benefit analysis. A cost can be any negative impact.

Working on a piece of A4 paper in landscape, students produce a table of the costs and benefits in different categories.

Some suggestions:

Category ------------ Cost------------ Benefit

Behaviour in lessons
Bunking lessons

When the analysis is complete, students use it to defend their opinion in a presentation or letter to be made to the governors.

Extension activity

Rules and constraints

Put it to students that: "As citizens we all sacrifice some freedom in return for law and order."

They pick five examples of when this has happened to them recently.

For each example, they identify what, if any, the benefits were to themselves and to others.


Put it to students that: "CCTV itself is not the problem. How it is used is the issue."

Ask them: Who in society should make the rules about when and how we are filmed?

Turn this into an assembly

Read out the proposal to install CCTV cameras across the school.

Use a series of readers to explain the benefits and drawbacks for each category.

Conclude with a floor vote.

If the scheme is rejected, offer an amended, less intrusive version. The new proposal could include CCTV in the staff room.

Teachers' Background

John Wadham, director of human rights group Liberty, wants tighter legislation on the use of CCTV cameras.
He said: "We have to get the balance right on the use of CCTV and other surveillance equipment in public places between protecting people's safety and protecting their privacy.
"Pouring money into thousands more cameras without ensuring that their use is properly controlled by law is not a balanced way forward.

Firthmoor in Darlington, County Durham, where 11 cameras were installed on a large local authority estate, has seen a drop of 46% in reported crime.

Taunton in Somerset, where six cameras were installed in town centre car parks, has seen motor vehicle theft fall by more than 50%.

Professor John Ditton, professor of criminology at Sheffield University, has also questioned the efficiency of CCTV cameras.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "We were sold this package of CCTV cameras on the basis that it would reduce crime and the fear of crime but there is no real evidence that it does that.
"Because we were sold it on that basis there was never any real civil libertarian objection."

A council is using CCTV cameras to zoom in on litter bugs and then publish the pictures in a "rogue's gallery". Merton Council in south London says it will fine anyone who is known to the council and filmed dropping litter

Thousands more CCTV cameras are to be put in place around the UK as the government steps up efforts to fight crime. The cameras will be installed in residential crime hotspots, High Street shopping centres, public transport networks and car parks and hospital sites.

Curriculum relevance

Citizenship KS2&3

1a. Human rights and responsibilities underpinning society.
2a. Think about topical political, spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues, problems and events by analysing information and its sources.
2b. Justify orally and in writing a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events.
2c. Contribute to group and exploratory class discussions, and take part in debates.
3a. Use imagination to consider other people's experiences and be able to think about, express and explain views that are not the students' own.

The numbers refer to the KS3 National Curriculum Programme of Study for Citizenship.

For hundreds more news-based stories, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

BBC Homepage >> | CBBC Homepage >>

Meet the Team | Help | Contact Us | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy