MP calls for school pictures review

AN ESSEX MP has called on his education authority to review its controversial policy over photographs of pupils.Simon Burns, Conservative MP for West Chelmsford, has welcomed news that Education Secretary Charles Clarke does not intend to ban the taking of photographs of pupils at school events because of fears over paedophiles.

AN ESSEX MP has called on his education authority to review its controversial policy over photographs of pupils.

Simon Burns, Conservative MP for West Chelmsford, has welcomed news that Education Secretary Charles Clarke does not intend to ban the taking of photographs of pupils at school events because of fears over paedophiles.

But Mr Burns said in the light of the clarification he was surprised Essex County Council did not intend to review its own subsequent guidelines to schools, which say before pupils can be photographed they must have written parental consent.

The matter came to a head when it was revealed that parents with children in some Essex schools were being told they could not take photographs of events such as nativity plays.


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Photographs of schoolchildren were also not allowed to appear in the local press unless written parental consent was granted.

However, after being contacted by the Newspaper Society, Mr Clarke said that some local authorities and schools had misinterpreted advice given by his department.

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The advice, he said, in fact referred to schools using video and photographic material in their own publicity material.

He wrote: "We were told last year that some local authorities and schools had misinterpreted the advice: either applying it to the use of cameras and videos when used 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 newspapers."

He also wrote: "My department has not issued advice about the press photographing school pupils."

He added his department and clarified and added to the advice carried on its website.

However an Essex County Council spokesman said it would not be changing its own guidelines, although a fuller, revised version would be published soon.

"A lot of parents do complain that their children have been photographed. These are real anxieties.

"There have been rare cases of unsavoury individuals contacting schools to try and access children after seeing their photographs in a newspaper."

Mr Burns said: "I am pleased to learn that Charles Clarke was not so politically correct to give this sort of guidance, and I am disappointed that Essex County Council is not going to review its decision – it does seem they are taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"I think they should reconsider. It is a sad state of affairs if parents can't take photographs of their children performing in school nativity plays. It seems ridiculous to me."

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