Should schools use body cameras?

Secondary schools in England are trialling the use of teacher-worn body cameras to help improve safeguarding and monitor student behaviour 

The Guardian reported in February that three secondary schools in England are equipping teachers with body cameras, with two stating that they had been very impressed by the trial and wanted to continue using them. 

Larry Davis, deputy headteacher at Southfields academy in Wimbledon, one of the schools involved in the trial, said the use of body cameras had improved behaviour and lessened the number of dangerous confrontations since they were introduced at the start of the school year. “My aim is [to find out] how best we can just focus on the teaching and learning, rather than dealing with confrontations. Since we have introduced [cameras] we have very few issues in regard to that – maybe once a month,” he said.

Reveal, which supplies the cameras to police forces and hospitals, is promoting the trials and hopes to sell the cameras and software to schools on a longer-term basis. It said that one school in Hampshire wanted to use the cameras after both a student and staff member had been attacked last year. A deputy headteacher at the school, who did not wish to be named, said, “The main reason we brought cameras in was not to deal with our own students but to deal with unknown children who came on to our site from other schools and the local community.

“Sometimes the fact that we approach with a camera has the desired behavioural effect without even needing to turn it on. We’re definitely going to keep going with the cameras; it’s not something we can come back from because of what it’s done for us as a tool to safeguard our students.”

However, not everyone supports the idea. Tom Bennett, the Department for Education’s independent adviser on behaviour in schools, said he remained opposed to the use of body cameras. “Wearable CCTV is almost entirely useless in schools. It ruins the relationship between student and learner. There’s not much evidence that [body cameras] deter misbehaviour and plenty of evidence that they enhance the fear of crime. There may be some specific circumstances where it might be useful, such as monitoring large playgrounds but, in general, I’d advise against it strongly.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, isn’t sure whether or not many schools will use body cameras if they become widely available, but emphasises that he supports the right of schools to choose. “There are clearly going to be questions about whether body cameras are appropriate in a school setting but we support the right of school leaders and governing bodies to make decisions about the measures they use to maintain discipline and security.”

It is yet to be seen whether schools will adopt body cameras on a wider scale but, with strong opinions on both sides, it is likely that the debate will rumble on. Do you think that teacher-worn body cameras are a good idea? Let us know on Twitter by using the handle @edexec to tell us your thoughts!

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