Cameras in classrooms: An invasion of privacy or the future of teaching?

By Oliver Smith 22 February 2017

Body-worn cameras are being worn by teachers, but is it a step too far?

In a world-first, two British schools are trialling body-worn video cameras for teachers, triggering outrage among privacy campaigners.

For their part the teachers have been kitted out with cameras that can be activated at the touch of a button to record “incidents” or bad behaviour among pupils in class.

Footage is then securely stored online for a month, before being deleted.

“Teachers have a reassurance that no matter how an incident resolves, there will be an account to show to other people if needed,” Ben Read, marketing executive at Reveal Media, who supply cameras to the police and the two schools in question, told The Memo.

“Teachers’ job isn’t to enforce students the whole time, what we want to do is give teachers a tool that will help them to get back to teaching.”

Of course, not everyone agrees.

Reveal Media's Calla camera for teachers. Images by Reveal Media

A step too far?

Privacy campaigners are already rallying against the cameras as yet another intrusion.

“Cameras in the classroom are excessive and will change the dynamic of learning in UK’s schools,” Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told The Memo. “Pupils should not be made to feel they are under surveillance when they are at school.”

“If classroom incidents are so severe that teachers feel the need to wear cameras, then there are better ways to tackle the problem. Surveillance is not the solution.”

However, surveillance has been shown to be effective in policing.

Body cameras will be rolled out across London Met Police force.
Images by Reveal Media

Cameras on the beat

Over 20,000 body-worn cameras have been given to Met police across London, with thousands more being rolled out across the UK.

Read more: Met police are rolling out 20,000 body-worn cameras in London

Reveal Media is one of the largest suppliers of these cameras, and say they’ve had a big impact already.

“We’ve noticed huge drops in complaints against police officers, because people knew their actions are recorded, people generally calm down quicker and become more apologetic because of the cameras,” said Ben Read.

“We’re expecting to see similar outcomes in education.”

Whether cameras are as successful in the classroom, and whether parents, teachers and pupils will accept this new technology, we’ll have to wait and see.

A final shot

On its own merits teachers with cameras makes sense, and I’m sure it’ll have a great impact on enforcement in teaching, but let’s zoom back.

But if cameras spread into teaching, where else will they end up? Hospitals, bus drivers, corner shop cashiers?

If we decide cameras are acceptable in schools, we must also be prepared for cameras to be worn by every other stranger in our lives.