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Body cameras - a good or bad move for enhancing school security?

11th October 2017 Print

A pair of schools in the UK are to undertake a trial where teachers will wear body cameras within the classroom, a report published by the Times Education Supplement (TES) has revealed.

While both of the unnamed schools are still looking into early ideas about how to implement such technology, one plan is for a project that will result in teachers having cameras fitted onto their clothes. Essentially, the technology would always be filming, though incidents could only be recorded and encrypted footage saved once a switch found on the devices is activated.

Therefore, teachers taking part in the trial would be advised to only switch their cameras onto recorded mode once they feel that a ‘low-level’ incident is occurring within their classroom. They would also be made aware of the fact that they will need to give notice to those in the classroom before any recording begin.

Explaining the reasoning behind this particular plan, principal lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at Portsmouth University, Tom Ellis, said: “There’s very much an emphasis on getting rid of low-level disruption or disorder in the classroom.”   

Similar technology has already been successfully implemented at schools across the US. Meanwhile, both Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police Service have introduced body-worn video technology in the form of new helmet designs and vest-mounted cameras — further details of the latter development can be seen here.

By acting as a deterrent, Mr Ellis is confident that body cameras can be just as effective when implemented into UK classrooms. He explained: It can be used for self-reflection. It can be shown back to the pupil, one-on-one, and that can have a positive impact without the need to resort to disciplinary process.”

Many teachers also appear to be in support of the move to bring body cameras into schools throughout the UK, if a TES poll involving over 600 teachers and reported on by the Independent is anything to go by.

More than a third of teachers surveyed (37.7 per cent) acknowledged being in favour of using body cameras in the classroom. Close to two-thirds of respondents went as far as to state that the technology would make them feel safer in their working environment, with 10.9 per cent expressing their confidence that the devices would eventually become compulsory equipment for the UK’s educational establishments.

However, concerns related to the technology were raised by a few teachers involved in the survey. This included fears that the devices would have negative effects on both their own privacy and that of children in the classrooms, who may feel uneasy that they are being spied on.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ general secretary, Mary Bousted, also pointed out: “If schools have good behaviour policies, they should not have to resort to using body cameras or CCTV. We would not support schools being turned into prisons.

“CCTV can have a useful role in monitoring entrances and exits to schools to prevent strangers gaining access or vandalism, but we do not support their use in schools to monitor children and staff.”

Body cameras will indeed be a new concept for UK classrooms, but it’s important to note that many schools across the nation has already made effective use of CCTV systems already. This includes through the following guises:

- Video Content Analysis systems so that analysis of CCTV images can be carried out to provide meaningful information. For example…

- The identification of whether objects have been removed from a certain area of the school.

- The analysis of CCTV images in order to identify specific patterns, like smoke when addressing arson attacks.

- The ability to establish virtual tripwires that trigger an alert, should someone attempt to cross a specific boundary – eliminating the need to erect walls or fencing at these locations.

- CCTV in classrooms to address issues of bullying and also assist with teaching training — for the latter, this technology can be used as an alternative to having a teaching colleague present in the classroom throughout the entire lesson.

- Access control systems, such as those provided by award-winning security specialist 2020 Vision, that are specifically designed for educational establishments, so that security personnel can keep updated about who is in a facility once they have been added to turnstiles, gates and barriers throughout the institute.