The Class of 1984

Based on data covering more than 2,000 secondary schools and academies, Big Brother Watch warns that there are more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in secondary schools and academies across England, Wales and Scotland.

With some schools seeing a ratio of one camera for every five pupils, more than two hundred schools using CCTV in bathrooms and changing rooms and more cameras inside school buildings as outside, the picture across the country will undoubtedly shock and surprise many.

To put into context the number of cameras, our research earlier this year found there are currently at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by 428 local authorities.

The report, which you can download here, warns that the Home Office’s proposed system of regulation for CCTV cameras is not fit for purpose, with the newly created position of Surveillance Camera Commissioner having no enforcement or inspection powers.

This report highlights an issue that has not been subject to any real public debate and we hope by highlighting the scale of the situation a proper debate can now take place about not only how to regulate CCTV, but also why surveillance continues to increase unchecked when there is still no academic research that suggests it is having a positive impact.

We make three key recommendations in the report, which are:

  1. The Home Office code of practice for CCTV cameras should apply to all publicly funded bodies
  2. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner must have the power to enforce the Code of Practice and penalties for breaching the code must be available
  3. The Government should commission an independent review of CCTV use in schools to explore the evidential basis upon which cameras have been installed. This should include ensuring any school using CCTV has appropriate policies in place so teachers and parents are fully aware of why surveillance is being used, when footage can be viewed and by who.

The surveillance experiment of the past twenty years has failed to reduce crime or improve public safety. As schoolchildren across the country are now expected to accept surveillance for the formative years of their education, it is time for a different approach.