Teachers hit back at "permanent surveillance" in the classroom

banksy-3A survey conducted by the NASUWT teaching union, has highlighted that teachers are being subjected to “permanent surveillance” through the use of CCTV cameras in the classroom.

What is clear is that the surveillance experiment of the past twenty years has failed to reduce crime or improve public safety. Yet, schoolchildren and teachers across the country are now expected to accept surveillance for the formative years of their education and in the workplace.

Our report, The Class of 1984, shred light for the first time on the extent of surveillance within schools, highlighting that there are more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in secondary schools and academies across England, Wales and Scotland. Our report also showed that there is a ratio of one CCTV camera for every five pupils, more than two hundred schools are using CCTV in bathrooms and changing rooms and there are more cameras inside school buildings than outside.

The NASUWT union conference featured a debate on whether the monitoring of teachers has become excessive, with the motion adding “Its impact is to stifle creativity in education, disempower teachers, put procedure before purpose and increase the workload of teachers”. The debate was spurred by a survey carried out by the NASUWT union which found that one in 12 (8%) of members questioned said they have CCTV in their classrooms. Of these:

  • Two thirds (66%) say the cameras were introduced for pupil safety with a further 58% stating they were introduced for the safety of staff.
  • Just under a third (31%) said that the cameras are there to monitor pupil behaviour, with 15% saying that they are designed to help teachers’ professional development.
  • About 7% said that their school had introduced cameras to monitor teaching and learning, with another 6% claiming they are used to monitor teacher performance.
  • Almost nine in ten (89%) said that they cannot switch the cameras off, with a similar proportion (87%) saying that the CCTV was constantly recording.
  • The survey also found that just over half of teachers (55%) claim the recordings are monitored by their school leaders, with two fifths (41%) saying the footage has been used to make judgments about staff.

Reacting to the figures, the NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Teachers are already wrestling with excessive monitoring, masquerading as classroom observation, carried out by senior management and a host of other people regularly visiting their classrooms. Now, in some schools, they are being subjected to permanent surveillance through CCTV cameras. Lab rats have more professional privacy. The stories teachers recounted to us in the survey are a shocking catalogue of professional disrespect and unacceptable intrusion. No other professionals are subjected to such appalling treatment, No one should be subjected to the stress and pressure of being watched constantly.”

The use of CCTV in schools and the workplace is an issue that has not been subject to any real public debate so it is pleasing to see the NASUWT union highlighting the scale of surveillance and the purposes behind it. It is hoped that this attention will mean that we can begin to have a proper debate 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.

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in CCTV | 6 Comments


  1. Ian Potters
    23rd April 2014

    > the cameras skipped are designed to help teachers’ professional development.

    What an ungodly bunch of nonsense.

    • Anonymouse
      5th May 2014

      It’s not nonsense at all, it’s a great article in the times of mass spying – now in schools too!

  2. De week in 234 woorden « Bits of Freedom
    26th April 2014

    […] Engeland, je zou er maar wonen. Naast de regen. de spionerende GCHQ en het draconische internetfilter, blijken ze ook hun klaslokalen vol te hangen met camera’s. […]

  3. Anonymous
    30th April 2014

    I wonder if this situation is still the same after that Leeds teacher stabbing recently.

  4. LAX
    5th May 2014


    I never could wrap my head around the British obsession with cameras and having things monitored.

    I am – very! – glad that they do not put up cameras in schools here in Germany, as I think it’s unacceptable this invasion of privacy.

    Hell, I have a problem with cameras in public settings (with the exception of trainstations, subways and airports maybe, as even there the potential for abuse of the system is just too great…and in a way, the more we destroy the freedoms we in the western world have, the more terrorists and criminals win, because they have succeded in destroying our way to go about our lives!)

    greetings LAX
    ps: I also think all sorts of tracking hardware should only be allowed to be used in open cases by police/secret services (and only with a warrant!)…parents tracking their children (throug GPS/GLONASS etc. is unacceptable IMO)…same with schools (like in the US) putting tracking chips (RFID!) on Student-IDs…It’s horrifying that people can blindly accept that (the East-German STASI or the Nazi GESTAPO would have loved those tools…and the way the NSA and others are using them, they are not much better then those organisations!), while saying we do not live in a surveillance state (like in the book “1984”…only worse IMO!)

  5. Leon Merone
    21st May 2014

    I often hear the statement: “we need a debate on the cctv issue.” Why? We didn’t have one when these things were installed they just appeared so surely we don’t need a debate to remove most of them. A 75% REDUCTION NOW! And not 1% less. Unless, of course, you believe that British people are the most dishonest, violent and untrustworthy people on the planet, and need constant surveylance.