Spy kids

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cctv in school toilets was given the go-ahead this week in a new set of guidelines approved by councillors.

On Tuesday, education bosses approved a policy for all West Lothian schools to put cameras into sink areas and changing rooms, if parents and staff back the plans.

Originally they considered ditching CCTVs - which are already installed in two West Lothian schools - after a complaint, but instead gave the go-ahead in principle to have them in every school.

Councillor Andrew Miller said: “Head teachers have stressed the value of CCTV in toilet areas to deter vandalism, smoking and other indiscipline; they are also popular with the majority of pupils. When there’s a need to place cameras in sensitive areas, they will only be done so with the support of the school community.”

He added that the solution fully complied with the Information Commissioner’s 2008 CCTV Code of Practice as well as the Secure by Designs Guidelines for Schools published by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2010.

Councillor Miller added: “By introducing these new guidelines the council hopes to provide clarity when it comes to the use of CCTV.”

However, the possible introduction of cameras will be an entirely local issue, decided by each individual school.

Samuel McKee, chair of Linlithgow Primary Parent Council, said this was not something their council had discussed but added: “We all want to protect our children within the school environment but we need to strike a balance and let children be children as well. If I took this to the parents there would be a lot of opposition to it.

“My own personal opinion is that I would be against it and that it would be going too far at this stage.”

David Mitchell, chair of Linlithgow Academy Parent Council, had seen original papers which only discussed the situation in Whitburn and West Calder, and had supported the removal of those cameras. He said: “We got asked to look at a proposal after an issue was raised by a parent in Whitburn.

‘‘I am against it in principle - there must be alternatives.”

School CCTV footage is only viewed when the school wishes to look at an incident of vandalism or bullying and is only retained for a short time before being disposed of.

It is understood the cameras were orginally put in the first two schools to tackle vandalism.

But Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, which monitors camera use in Britain, said: “This is an extremely worrying development.

“Any right-thinking person would conclude that monitoring school toilets with CCTV cameras is a gross invasion of children’s privacy.”

Under the approved guidelines, CCTV must be signposted and not concealed, and schools should regularly review their use.