The independent London newspaper

Data alert over secret school loo cam

Union raises surveillance concerns

15 November, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Duncombe Primary School in Upper Holloway

DATA rights activists and a teachers’ union have criticised an Islington primary school after “concealed cameras” were found in the toilets.

The secretary for the Islington branch of the National Education Union (NEU) has said he has “serious concerns” about the Duncombe Primary School case.

And the NEU was backed by Big Brother Watch, a national charity which campaigns to protect citizens’ data rights. It said that the use of cameras in toilets was becoming a worrying trend.

Parents were outraged when the school in Sussex Way, Upper Holloway, first admitted that they had installed the hidden cameras five years ago without informing them.

Parents outside the school

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: “This is an extremely worrying discovery that will alarm pupils and parents alike.

“Astoundingly, we’ve found several schools over the years placing surveillance cameras around children’s bathrooms, but we have never seen incidents of concealed cameras.

“This misguided surveillance is a completely unacceptable invasion of children’s privacy and a clear safeguarding risk.”

A support group has been set up by parents called Justice for Duncombe Children and they are demanding that the school and its previous headteacher, Barrie O’Shea, answer their questions.

Former headteacher Barrie O’Shea

Mr O’Shea, who has declined to comment, left in the summer and Helen Ryan, who took his place, reported the cameras to the police and the council’s child protection services after finding them.

The school has not said who authorised the cameras to be installed five years ago.

Tony Buttifint, secretary of Islington NEU, said: “In the first instance there is clear legislation around the use of cameras in public places and on school premises and I would expect all schools to adhere to that legislation. Even within that, I would have serious concerns about their use in sensitive areas such as toilets.”

The Met Police closed its investigation, concluding that no criminal behaviour had taken place. The Information Commissioners Office [ICO] is investigating.

The school said it was “cooperating fully with the ICO inquiry” and the council is “satisfied that the school has taken all appropriate measures to prevent anything similar happening again”.


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