Scottish Daily Mail Front Page – 11/06/13 – How Big Brother spies on Scottish schools

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THOUSANDS of CCTV cameras are spying on children in Scotland’s schools as ‘Big Brother’ surveillance reaches unprecedented levels.

Many pupils are also having their fingerprints taken to allow access to school library facilities or to enable them to use meal services.

According to worrying new figures, some schools have one spy camera for every 16 pupils.

Across Scotland, youngsters from the age of three are being watched by a total of 3,157 surveillance devices in schools and playgrounds.

A total of 43 Scots primaries and 25 secondaries also have ‘biometric’ ID systems, where pupils have their fingerprints scanned to gain access to services.

More than 222,000 nursery, primary and secondary pupils are under the eye of 1,341 cameras sited inside school buildings.

Proponents say that CCTV helps to combat violence and vandalism but critics warn of unnecessary intrusion into the everyday lives of young children in schools.

Last night, critics said the figures, which were compiled by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, were concerning.

Richard Haley, of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, said: ‘There is a real problem with children becoming accustomed to a surveillance state at a young age.

Teachers should be able to just recognise children without having to use fingerprint scanners.’

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, said: ‘There is definitely a risk of moving towards a nanny state.

‘Some schools have cameras in every corridor and that seems a bit excessive. ‘The majority need to be outside the school grounds in playgrounds where most of the trouble happens. There needs to be clear guidelines set out to make sure the numbers do not get too high.

We need to make sure that there is absolute clarity in terms of who is in charge of the footage and how the footage is used.’

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘It is a sad reflection on low standards of discipline in many schools that it is even thought necessary to install CCTV cameras to keep pupils safe.

‘A number of academic studies have questioned the effectiveness of CCTV cameras to reduce bullying and crime on school premises. This begs the question of whether constant surveillance is a proportionate response and whether the costs involved can be justified.’

Scottish Government guidelines advise schools to seek parental permission before collecting biometric information from pupils.

But education chiefs are not legally obliged to do so and say that the system is a simple way of controlling library lending and stamps out bullying because pupils do not need to carry cash.

Nick Pickles, of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘It is totally wrong for fingerprints to be taken without parents and pupils being fully aware that they have a choice to say no.

‘It’s clearly an issue if young children are being fingerprinted because it conditions them to be used to these kind of systems.’ On average, there is one camera for every 70 school children in Scotland.

Tory education spokesman Liz Smith said: ‘It should be up to individual schools to decide if they want CCTV cameras or not.

‘That could depend on the size of school and the area it is in. Some which have adopted them have seen discipline improve but it is worrying that so many feel they need them.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The safety of children and young people while on schoolpremises is of great importance but decisions on the installation of such equipment are a matter for local authorities.’

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