Education trust running Portsmouth schools uses CCTV in academies

A generic picture of a CCTV camera on the side of a building in central London. Picture: Clive Gee/PA Wire
A generic picture of a CCTV camera on the side of a building in central London. Picture: Clive Gee/PA Wire
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AN EDUCATION trust that runs a chain of academy schools in Portsmouth has been using CCTV footage to show parents how their children have misbehaved.

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which runs 17 schools across Portsmouth and Kent, uses the footage as part of a ‘restorative’ approach that forces pupils to face up to their bad behaviour before making amends.

However, the policy has been labelled ‘Orwellian’ by one civil liberties group.

The academy chain spells out its approach in a contribution to a behaviour guide published by the Confederation of School Trusts.

Speaking at a conference in London this summer, Stuart Gardner, chief executive of the chain, said CCTV was a ‘massively powerful part’ of the trust's ‘restorative process’, because it forced students to ‘examine their own behaviours’.

However, the campaign group Big Brother Watch called it a ‘shocking and illegitimate use of surveillance’ in schools which ought to be ‘reconsidered urgently’.

‘The use of surveillance cameras to spy on kids' behaviour in schools is truly Orwellian,’ the group's director Silkie Carlo told i.

‘Constant monitoring doesn't improve behavioural issues and shows a disregard for the civil liberties that underpin our society.

‘Children should be taught about the importance of their rights, not deprived of them.’

Ms Carlo added that the use of surveillance for behaviour management is not mentioned in the trust's published CCTV policy.

‘It's unclear if parents even know their children are being recorded,’ she said.

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust runs Isambard Brunel Junior School in North End, Moorings Way Infant School, Meon Infant School and Meon Junior School in Southsea, Newbridge Junior School and Penhale Infant School and The Portsmouth Academy in Fratton but it is unknown which schools in the city use the CCTV behaviour policy.

A spokesman for the trust said use of CCTV in secondary schools is ‘commonplace to support good behaviour and as a result ensure a positive learning environment’.

He added that it contributed to the excellent behaviour across the trust's schools.

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust is not alone in using CCTV to manage behaviour.

In 2017, it emerged that two schools in the UK had begun testing body cameras on teachers to record classroom behaviour.

Tom Ellis, a lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at Portsmouth University, said the move has been inspired by the use of body cameras in the police force, and aimed to counter ‘low-level disruption or disorder in the classroom’.

According to research from 2012 by the campaign group Big Brother Watch, 90 per of UK schools had CCTV cameras, with an average of 24 cameras per secondary school.

A version of this story first appeared in our sister paper, the i newspaper.