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.



  1. Tony
    12th September 2012

    Cameras in bathrooms and changing rooms (no matter how they try and justify it) is deeply disturbing.

  2. Dom Harness
    12th September 2012

    I agree with the fundamental baseline of what you stand for, but with regards to cameras in school I can only think this as a positive, as said today on tv the use of cameras in toilets & changing rooms do not monitor the “private” areas but more the coming & going. I can say with some certainty that my school life along with thousands of others would have been very different had we had the extra deterrent of cameras and I my son who is now of school age says he feels much more secure & there is almost zero bullying within his school since cameras were installed. TBH I think your wrong on his one………

  3. UnisonTechnology
    12th September 2012

    We are a provider for CCTV in schools in the West Midlands and
    our installations have always been planned and carried out with the schools to
    protect children external to the school and in corridors. We have heard on the
    radio this morning comments that CCTV is used in toilets and changing rooms and
    wanted to say that the only CCTV cameras that we have ever installed in these
    areas are in washrooms and again this is for safety. Unison CCTV can clearly
    state that the schools we have worked with have seen a benefit from our
    installations and parents and pupils feel safe knowing that the cameras are in
    place. //

    • awakenedmind
      12th September 2012

      I don’t want my kids to be watched 24/7 by goons – I don’t want to be filmed every where I go – you scum make me sick. You really can’t see a problem can you?

      • Libra
        13th September 2012

        UnisonTechnology is only putting a point of view. It is unfortunate to use the sort of language you have to shout it down because that undermines the case of everyone else who disagrees with it. It would be interesting to know what UnisonTechnology (or the schools it supplies) mean by ‘safety’. Do they mean stopping bullying? In that case the use of cameras is for behaviour modification. By instinct we may not like that, but it may be beneficial, at least in the short term. There is a danger that school authorities will think that the cameras have ‘solved the bullying problem’, and not take the necessary action when it crops up in another guise. CCTV is easily misinterpreted, it is not even a reliable way of identifying people, its easy to use it to support miscarriage of justice. The existing CCTV Code of Practice says that cameras should only be used in places which individuals would expect to have some privacy under exceptional circumstances. This seems sensible. It would be better to put some effort into getting compliance with the existing code than to make a new one that only covers particular users; the first prosecution of a teacher for inappropriate use of CCTV images will provoke another unenforceable law….same old story..

      • Dario85
        7th December 2012

        I see a problem that has brought this whole issue about in the first place. People (Not all granted, but an ever increasing amount) commiting crimes that affect those who want to live there lifes without someone coming along and getting in the way. At the end of the day if parents were bothered with the ones going off the rails as some would say then there would be no need for the widespread CCTV use we have now. I personnally have no issues with being on CCTV (Yes I work with CCTV) but I fully undertsand why others dislike it. But if this country was not falling apart in the first place then I am certain CCTV would not be used as much.

      • Stiffie Fornicatesthedead
        21st March 2013

        Don’t send your seedlings to public school, then! Watch The War On Kids, it’s about the failed public school system and how they seek to control anyone who may step out of line with force and medication (Ritalin).

  4. anon
    12th September 2012

    What a sad society we live in if anyone believes that the way to bring up our children and young people is to keep them under surveillance all the time. Yes we want safety but should we not be tackling the issues that make some believe that the only way to be safe is to keep everyone under surveillance? Cameras do not prevent certain behaviours or miraculously turn bullies into angels – they just move them on to other places where they find new ways to do their bullying.

  5. Is the use of CCTV cameras in schools out of hand? | Nick Pickles and Stephanie Benbow | Old News
    12th September 2012

    […] research on CCTV cameras in schools estimates that there are now more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in secondary […]

  6. Common Sense
    12th September 2012

    What do ya mean by Bathroom? please cut out the americanisms this is a british site through and through.

    • stinky
      21st September 2012

      thats right.. poms dont bathe do they.

    • CymraegUn
      28th September 2012

      Try not to to split hairs. “Bathroom” = “toilet” = “W.C.” = “The Bog” = “The Head” = “The john”…..and so on. We are Britons living and working all over the world, all objecting to our rights being taken by the governments, all asking for transparency in government actions and practise. I would hope that we shall soon see a bit less hatred towards Americans, as the UK in many, many ways behaves worse than, and copies everything that, the US does! The UK doesn’t even protect rights to free speech! Please be respectful. The “divide and conquer”, the separatist mentality, plays RIGHT into the governments’ (yes, both of them although there is little to tell them apart except little pieces of red, white and blue cloth) hands. Have a nice day :)

      • :)
        30th December 2012

        I am an American and I love Britain. Everything from the accent to the clothes and music you have over there :). At the same time, I think what you just said was a bit rude (although I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it). Please be more respectful! Thanks!

  7. Little Men Craving Dominance
    13th September 2012

    am against this mass-scale surveillance technique for security of the
    future. What we need is to remove the indoctrination of constantly
    worrying about violence, by getting rid of these TV shows that are
    broadcasted daily that only base stories off of murder and the distrust
    of other humans. Having CCTV in every corner of our lives seems to only
    play more on the fear side. It’s too much! The larger portion of violence and distrust carried
    out on this planet is by corporate interests of war and national

    Google ‘the Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich’

    • ad
      22nd January 2013

      there’s been studies done to prove that violent programmes actually have little effect on people actually

  8. Prime Digital
    13th September 2012

    We specialise in providing CCTV in secondary schools throughout the UK and we always
    ensure that our installations are planned carefully with the school’s senior management team to ensure cameras are only placed where necessary to reduce bullying and vandalism. Prime Digital has found that the schools, where we have worked, have seen an immediate benefit from our installations and parents and pupils feel safe knowing that the cameras are in place. In addition the teachers who have traditionally been assigned to “watching the children” to manage behaviour, can now concentrate their efforts on more productive learning activities. //

    • 34th degree
      13th September 2012

      The royal and govern-mental turd-nuggets need CCTV in their washrooms and changing rooms. If the kids get it: SO DO THEY. These security measures are blatantly out of balance. “In addition the teachers who have traditionally been assigned to
      “watching the children” to manage behaviour, can now concentrate their
      efforts on more productive learning activities” <- SINCE WHEN DID THE TEACHERS SIT AROUND IN A BATHROOM WATCHING KIDS? Seems a bit GROSS.

      • Prime Digital
        17th September 2012

        As you are probably aware, Teachers are not assigned to manage children in bathrooms/toilets but they are often assigned to keep a watchful eye over children in a playing area.

        • Guest
          19th September 2012

          So in that case, how is this legal again?
          OFSTED are probably gonna be pissed. (no pun intended)

    • Libra
      14th September 2012

      What is the relevance of ‘an immediate benefit’? You obviously don’t mean that people in the act of bullying or vandalising were suddenly reformed, the question is how long was it before the problems recurred? If you read the report you will see that serious research is not very encouraging about the long term benefit. I would accept that children who feel safe may be bullied less, but I think it is a difficult theory to prove. Of course teachers like something that they feel removes the necessity to monitor behaviour, but surely even bullies can work out that there isn’t somebody watching every monitor all the time? In the long run the benefit of CCTV relies on the victims reporting events, and the school having an effective response. If victims feel more confident about reporting because they have CCTV as a witness that may be a help, but a lot of bullying is more subtle and long term, and in the event the CCTV may not give useful support to the accuser, which will tend to make the problem worse in the future. Surely the use of CCTV is an issue that should be considered by boards of governors rather than just being left to staff, and isn’t it short sighted to exclude schools from the regulations rather than making a such a modest requirement? Schools clearly ignore the current code of practice, but a complete lack of guidance is a recipe for bad decisions.

      • Prime Digital
        17th September 2012

        What we mean’t by “immediate benefit” is the positive reaction (from staff) we get when installing a larger numbers of cameras in a school (over a number of days). We find that as the cameras are installed, they are used immediately to resolve conflicts and we are asked how long it will take to get the rest online so they can be used as well. We find schools never watch cameras live they are used “after the event” to provide the evidence needed to curb the activities of bullies etc. Boards always take a keen interest in the pros and cons of CCTV installation in their school and it is not always the right solution for all schools. Because of the publicity associated with CCTV in schools we find schools are always trying to make sure they meet every possible regulation for fear of falling foul of the media. If more regulations are introduced I am sure the schools will try and follow them as well (for the same reasons).

        • Libra
          18th September 2012

          Thanks for your response, Prime Digital. If, as the report suggests will happen, the new system of regulation does not include schools in its scope that will be a bad thing, both for those of us who are concerned about possible misuse of CCTV (both willful and accidental) and those like yourself who quite properly use the existing code as a selling point for your compliant systems. Selective application is in itself an unhelpful complication of regulations, what is needed is clear regulation that is well advertised and understood. I hope you would agree with this and support Big Brother Watch in points 1 and 3 of the recommendations of the report as stated above? (Personally I’m less convinced of the importance of 2, I think its an area where ‘teeth’ are not necessary or likely to be effective).
          Of course there are Boards less willing or able to engage with the implementation of CCTV (and which are happy to have the name of the school inserted into a standard ‘policy’ as if that showed that adequate thought had been put in to properly assess a school’s requirements), just as there are CCTV suppliers who are inefficient about maintaining equipment (and by the same token perhaps not as scrupulous as yourselves about the design and appropriateness of a system).
          It is interesting to read the testimonials on your website, I wonder whether any of the schools would be willing to report the actual effectiveness of their systems over time, rather than the immediate effect and the efficiency of the installers, which while good to know are only one aspect of the issue?

          • Prime Digital
            18th September 2012

            We have a long term relationship with most our Secondary School CCTV Customers and they tell us they use the systems over time and they find them effective. I guess the initial impact will always be greatest when those that have been getting away with activities, such as bullying and vandalism, are suddenly called to account for their actions because they have been caught on camera. If they stop these activities because cameras are about then surely this is a good thing. If no one looks at the cameras either – because they are no more troubles – then this is also good from a privacy perspective.

  9. Big Brother or peeping tom? UK installs CCTV in school bathrooms, changing rooms | THE JEENYUS CORNER « The Jeenyus Corner
    13th September 2012

    […] The Class of 1984 ( Rate this:ShareLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: Île-de-France, Big Brother Watch, CCTV, Changing room, Closed-circuit television, England, Information Commissioner's Office, Radclyffe School Permalink […]

  10. Big Kev
    14th September 2012

    My own school days were sometime ago, we had outside toilets (not bathrooms) at each break the toilets were wreathed in a fog of cigarette smoke so even if there were CCTV no teacher would have been able to spot bullying or anything else. On a more serious note the government has abolished the code of standards that did apply to school toilets. How many WC’s per child adequate provision of hot water toilet paper and soap etc. The standars also insisted that doors to WC’s in schools should be lockable. The last provision would protect children from bullying far more effectively than CCTV. The rule used to be one WC per five pupils it seems that we now have one camera per five pupils Schools now have to ensure that toilet provision is “adequate” each individual school interperets adequacy as it sees fit. It is a sad reflection on the UK that schools can stick CCTV all over the place in order to spy on children (spy is the right word) but they cannot or chose not to provide children with proper toilet facilities. Priorities in the wrong place.
    BHig Kev

  11. anon
    14th September 2012

    I struggle to see the correlation between being under surveillance and feeling safe. When I walk around a store that has CCTV cameras is my immediate thought ‘I feel safe’? No it is ‘I hate being under surveillance’. Why are we led to believe that CCTV cameras do anything other that record our images? Some people may be encouraged not to behave badly while under surveillance, others don’t care. Privacy, now that really is a luxury that we very rarely can enjoy these days.

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  13. Yoyo
    15th September 2012

    I applaud your request for a qualitative evaluation as opposed to the current quantitative approach. I personally find the use of CCTV offensive as it presumes an act of misbehavior, however the underlying behavior modification program seems the most abhorrent. Recommendations won’t address this aspect given social engineering is seldom admitted. System integrity may fall through the cracks, i.e. equipment that isn’t linked to a recoding device (dummy cameras) or budgetary constraints concerning recordable media. The economic facet will also hide in the shadows, how much is the industry worth per year, and to who? Cynically, what of conflicts of interest between those that tender and those that approve contracts. Being somewhat disbelieving of authority I prefer the idea of UV LED’s embedded in a cap!

  14. just sayin
    21st September 2012

    …defending civil liberties, protecting privacy.

    nice try.

  15. Sandra Leaton Gray
    4th October 2012

    Here’s a solution – let’s have a Government CCTV licence fee (aka tax) on each individual camera. Let’s set that at a level of, say, £1000 per camera per year. Then and only then will individual institutions be forced to reflect on whether this sort of surveillance is really necessary. Which all too often it isn’t.

    • Henry
      23rd January 2013

      Dont be stupid, what about the small businesses who replie on CCTV? im not wasting 1k a year on CCTV, which could save my busiess from money being stolen by staff or mugging etc. , look just because schools use it a lot doesnt mean we alll have to face punishment, so next time THINK about others before u open your gob. CCTV is part of our life now, its needed in some ways but i must admit CCTV in changing rooms is a bit too far. but school vandlism is prevented via this way so there needed.

  16. tmaxyb
    20th October 2012

    I think one of the major problems with CCTV is the effect that it is having on our psychology. Rather than understanding and internalising the basic tenet to do unto others what we would have them do to us, we do good, or at least not bad becuase we may be recorded on CCTV. That they have used them so widely in schools is no surprise, that of course is part and parcel of the hidden curriculum. This generation won’t even notice the cameras, cameras become as inconsequential as the lamp posts above our heads.

  17. How effective is CCTV? Survey by SecurityNewsDesk and icomply | icomply
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  18. ELlie
    16th November 2012

    Our school very recently installed CCTV cameras in all of the male and female toilets to “combat vandalism” – without consulting pupils. My group of friends went to senior management to complain that it was an invasion of our privacy and a misuse of funds that could be spent on other things, but were totally brushed off. All of the student body I have spoken to are disgusted but I can predict right now that nothing will be done about it.

    • Dario85
      7th December 2012

      This happened in a School I went to. I agree with you. This is going too far. At the same time. The toilets were set on fire. What are school’s ment to do? Whats happening to the kids to want to do such things? But I agree 100% with you. CCTV in areas like this should be a NO GO AREA. There are other options.

  19. buck rogers
    14th February 2013

    the fact i dont know anybody personally thats been helped by cctv in my town except the council(by using it to fine people for litter) plus all the back alley’s in town have been gated so you have to be on cctv 24 hours a day if you want to go outside…make me feel like were living in some kind of experiment camp

  20. Schools amp up security but is strategy fit for purpose? -
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    […] Imagine if your workplace told you it was installing CCTV cameras in meeting rooms, bathrooms and changing rooms. Now imagine that the feeds of the meeting rooms could be accessed by others online so that they could monitor your performance at any time. At the same time, it would introduce a biometric payment scheme, which meant that your employer would scan and store the fingerprints of every staff member. It could then monitor your purchases and send your partner or family member a breakdown of the nutritional value of the snacks you ate at your desk. It’s fair to say that some people might be a little bit peeved about this level of surveillance. But this is exactly what is taking place in schools across the UK. […]

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