Council to clarify school pictures rules

By James HoreAN MP has called on a council to clarify out its controversial policy on parents taking photographs of their children at school events.Simon Burns, the Conservative MP for West Chelmsford, asked for ministerial clarification on the Department of Education's guidelines on the issue.

By James Hore

AN MP has called on a council to clarify out its controversial policy on parents taking photographs of their children at school events.

Simon Burns, the Conservative MP for West Chelmsford, asked for ministerial clarification on the Department of Education's guidelines on the issue.

It followed controversy at Christmas when Essex County Council sent out a directive to schools recommending they obtained blanket permission for pupils to be filmed or to appear in pictures.

The move was designed to bring schools into line with the Data Protection Act and to ensure images of youngsters did not appear on websites used by paedophiles.

Mr Burns claimed the directive was like "taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut" and the Government has now confirmed schools only had to obtain parental permission for images which they planned to use in publications or on the internet.

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It said: "We were told that some local authorities and schools had misinterpreted that advice, either applying it to the use of cameras and videos by parents when filming or photographing school events, or using it to form the basis of policies relating to the publication of photographs in local papers.

"As a result, we revised the advice to make it clear that it does not apply to those areas and that schools and local education authorities are free to set their own policies about those issues in light of local circumstances and sensitivity."

Mr Burns said: "I hope that the Essex local education authority will now clarify the situation with headteachers and although they are free to set their own policies on this specific issue, I do hope that they will not simply maintain the existing misinterpreted rules."

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "We issued a brief statement to schools before Christmas recommending they obtain parental permission before children were photographed.

"We are drawing up more extensive guidelines at the moment and will be issuing them to schools, but they will be purely voluntary."

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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