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Teachers issue Big Brother warning over classroom CCTV

Teachers will discuss concerns over the use of CCTV surveillance in Scottish schools

TEACHERS have issued a warning over the spread of CCTV cameras in schools.

While surveillance cameras are routinely used to monitor public areas, corridors or school grounds teachers are concerned about their use in the classroom.

In particular staff don’t want to see footage from cameras being used to judge the performance of school staff during lessons.

The issue will be discussed by members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) at its annual congress later this month.

A motion to the congress from the union’s North Lanarkshire branch states: “The association accepts that surveillance CCTV improves the safety and security of the school building.

“The use of it, however, throws up other issues pertaining to the use of surveillance CCTV within the classroom.

“The association calls on all local authorities to ensure that such technologies are not to be used to gather data for performance management purposes or capability procedures.”

In 2012 it emerged that more than 200 schools across Britain were using CCTV cameras in pupils’ toilets or changing rooms.

Anti-surveillance campaigners who collated the figures warned the research raised serious questions about the privacy of schoolchildren.

Responses from 2,107 secondary schools showed there were a total of 47,806 cameras overall, including 26,887 inside school buildings - a camera for every 38 children.

In all, 90 per cent of schools had CCTV cameras, with an average of 24 cameras in each.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said: “Protection of staff and pupils in corridors is obviously an area where it could be of used, but we are increasingly aware of council discussions around the spread of this sort of technology into other areas of the school.

“The authorities would say that CCTV in the classroom would be used to protect staff and pupils and provide video evidence in the event of a violent incident or a false allegation, but there is a fear that it opens the door to using it to assess teacher competence.

“If it were to be used against teachers in that way then there would be an uproar and we need to assess what these sort of proposals are really seeking to do and whether they could be misused.”

The SSTA will also consider a range of other motions at its annual congress including pay, workload and poor classroom behaviour.

A motion from the union’s national executive warns that secondary teachers in Scotland are paid less than teachers in England as well as college lecturers north of the Border, who now earn up to £40,000.

The motion states: “Congress believes that the current inability to recruit sufficient quality applicants to fill available places on teacher training courses is entirely predictable and requires to be addressed urgently to prevent staffing difficulties in our schools becoming even worse. “Scotland’s pupils deserve to not have their education damaged by the inability of their schools to find subject specialists to fill vacancies.

“Congress therefore expects the Government and Cosla to recognise the valuable work that teachers play in society and to restore pay levels, undoing the damage caused by a number of years of pay cuts.”

The SSTA will discuss extending its current strategy of industrial action if there was a failure to restore the ‘true’ value of teacher salaries.

A further motion calls for a national strategy to deal with “unauthorised absenteeism, violent incidents and poor behaviour” which are having a “negative impact” on schools and creating “additional stress and workload for both pupils and teachers”.

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