AMANDA FERGUSON in Belfast
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
On Tuesday parents of pupils at Belfast Royal Academy (BRA) raised concerns with me about CCTV equipment appearing in school toilets. I contacted the school and the Children’s Comissioner.
The school told Amanda.ie the CCTV isn’t live, and its ‘CCTV policy will be reviewed by the Board of Governors at a meeting at the end of September which includes the position of all operational cameras on the school site’.
Below is a copy of the email, provided by the school, which was sent to parents this morning which is unlikely to satisfy them or pupils.
STATEMENT SENT TO PARENTS
We have had a CCTV system in Belfast Royal Academy for more than five years. The system helps us to protect school property and provide a safe and secure environment for pupils, parents, staff, and visitors.
Over the course of the summer and in line with good maintenance practice, we took the opportunity to upgrade the system and review the number and positioning of individual cameras. As a result of this upgrade and review, it was decided that it would be prudent to install the technical infrastructure needed to allow the School to extend the coverage of the CCTV system to areas where we have had isolated incidents in the past, including the main pupil toilet facilities. Installation of the underlying technical infrastructure has now been completed, but it has not been commissioned and it has not been activated. The School currently has no plans to activate the infrastructure in the main toilet facilities and it has only been installed on a precautionary basis.
In addition, it is important for pupils, parents, staff, and visitors to note that if a decision was taken by the School at some point in the future to activate the new infrastructure and make the cameras in the toilets operational, then this decision would only be taken after appropriate consultation with the wider school community and in line with all relevant guidance and legislation, including the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation 2016. An impact assessment of the proposed use of the CCTV cameras would be undertaken by the School at that time and all stakeholders would be notified of the potential activation of the cameras.
Our updated policy on the use of CCTV cameras will be available on our School website following ratification by the Board of Governors.
Hilary Woods (Mrs)
The NI Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma issued the following statement:
Considerable media and public interest in this story.
It was also a discussion point on U105 Frank Mitchell programme.
******Friday 3rd - UPDATE: The CCTV infrastructure has been removed*******
The school has removed the cameras from relevant toilets (boys and girls) to reassure parents. An impact assessment will be carried out and CCTV policy updated in due course.
I don’t think this is the last we have heard on this theme which raises important issues around the balance between protecting property, workers rights, children’s privacy and other rights.
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