Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Teachers' fears after pupil films unruly classroom

Union anger that ruling fails to safeguard staff

Teachers across Ulster have been failed by a landmark ruling by the PCC regarding the use of audio visual footage of an unruly class, it was claimed today.

The Press Complaints Commission dealt with complaints about the identification of pupils in a class from a school in Scotland.

Their photographs, in which some of the pupils were identifiable, were published in a local newspaper as part of an article into conditions in the classroom.

The newspaper reported that a 16-year-old student had filmed her unruly maths class at school on her mobile phone in order to explain poor results to her parents.

While the PCC ruled that the story was clearly a matter of public interest, it criticised the newspaper for not taking steps to ensure that it did not infringe the rights of the pupils appearing in the footage.

It ruled that steps should have been taken to conceal the identity of the pupils or to obtain proper consent and not doing so amounted to an unnecessary intrusion into the pupils' time at school.

The PCC found against a regional newspaper in Scotland that used unedited footage on its website, but found in favour of the Daily Mirror and the Sun who used stills from the same footage but with the pupils' identities concealed.

However, Frank Bunting, northern secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, said he was disappointed that the PCC made no reference to the protection of teaching staff in its ruling.

"We would be very concerned about situations where we come across instances where pupils are recording a class without the permission of the teacher," he said.

"In my view, there is a contract between the pupil, the parents and the teachers in the school and where parents do have a concern, all schools have a complaints procedure.

"There are ways of dealing with problems in school and videoing a class, giving it to your parents and passing it on to the media who sensationalise the situation is not the way to deal with this.

"While I would accept that there is a potential concern where the identification of pupils is involved there is no mention of the teacher at the school.

"More needs to be done to protect the teachers. I think that taking a video of a teacher who is carrying out their teaching without their permission is a scandal and the PCC should have taken that into account as well when making its ruling."

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