'Anti-vandal' CCTV in school toilets defended

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The Independent Online

A junior school headteacher today defended using CCTV to monitor toilet blocks in an effort to deter vandals.

Len Holman, head at Angel Road Junior School in Norwich, said pupils had requested the cameras, which cover the sinks, to protect newly-refurbished toilet blocks.

But Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, said the measure would only serve to prepare children for "a lifetime of pretty intrusive surveillance".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I do think that the state of our privacy in Britain, and the currency and value of it, is rather worse than even I had thought if we now believe that the only way to teach 7-11 year-olds to respect property, to behave well, is to put closed-circuit television in the toilets.

"In other words, to teach them 'behave well for fear of being caught' and to prepare them for a lifetime of pretty intrusive surveillance.

"What are we saying to them about their dignity and their personal privacy?"

Mr Holman told the programme the cameras were installed "four to five years ago" at the request of the pupils' school council.

"There were some isolated incidents of vandalism, occurring mainly because pupils of course can't be monitored by adults in toilet areas.

"So the pupils at the school saw that there was available space on the security system operating in the school and asked whether TV cameras could be installed, just to cover the sink areas in order to prevent further vandalism to the toilets which they are so proud of."

Yesterday it emerged a south London school had installed CCTV in classrooms to avoid disputes between teachers and pupils and prevent theft.

Stockwell Park High School is currently being rebuilt and as part of the overhaul a hi-tech surveillance system has been put in place.

So far there are cameras in 28 classrooms as well as corridors and stairwells, and there are 40 more outside.

Deputy headteacher Mike Rush said he envisaged the number of cameras doubling when the rest of the building is complete.