Big Brother CCTV to spy on pupils aged four - complete with CPS evidence kit
Jason Lewis, Daily Mail, UK, December 29, 2008
Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four.
The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned.
Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile "evidence" of wrongdoing.
The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.
The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.
But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children.
Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow
Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's
The equipment, which includes ceiling-mounted microphones and cameras and a hard drive recorder housed in a secure cabinet, is operating in around 85 primary and secondary schools and colleges.
The systems cost around £ 3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about £ 50 per classroom per month.
The firm says the devices act as "impartial witnesses" which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse plus provide evidence acceptable in court.
The firm also promotes its equipment as an educational tool, allowing "key lessons and class discussions to be recorded for revision, or for pupils who have missed important material or who may need extra help".
Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.
But last night an Information Commissioner's Office spokesman said the system raised "privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents".
He said the ICO would contact Classwatch and schools using the devices.
Classwatch director Andrew Jenkins, who set up the firm with his wife, said he welcomed further discussions with the Information Commissioner.
He said Classwatch had tried to guard against accusations of bringing Big Brother into schools.
Asked whether the company had taken account of the Commissioner's strict rules on workplace monitoring, he said: "Compliance with the Data Protection Act has always been a priority."
Last night, Tory frontbencher Mr. Loughton insisted there was no conflict between his political role and part-time job.