Nativity play pictures need consent

NATIVITY plays may have to be axed this Christmas if parents do not consent for their children to be photographed.Schools in Essex have received guidelines from the local education authority recommending they obtain "blanket" permission for pupils to be filmed or to appear in pictures.

NATIVITY plays may have to be axed this Christmas if parents do not consent for their children to be photographed.

Schools in Essex have received guidelines from the local education authority recommending they obtain "blanket" permission for pupils to be filmed or to appear in pictures.

The move is designed to bring schools into line with the Data Protection Act, and to ensure images of youngsters do not appear on internet sites which could be accessed by paedophiles.

If parents are opposed to images of their child being taken, the youngster would have to be excluded from the event or photography banned, or in the worst-case scenario, the event cancelled.


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Headteachers in every school have been told they should seek written permission from parents to ensure they are complying with the law.

However, once children reach year nine, aged about 13, the permission will have to be directly sought from the pupil.

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Writtle Junior School, near Chelmsford, is trying to gauge opinions of parents in time for this year's nativity play, and has received one reply requesting a child is not photographed.

Headteacher, Gwyneth Williams, said the only option now was to ban all the parents from photographing and filming their children in this year's play.

She said: "I feel so desperately sad that a tiny minority of society means these regulations have to be in place. It is tragic, absolutely tragic, but it has to be the parents' decision really.

"We have always asked permission before for photographs to be in the papers, but we are talking about our own parents here."

Mrs Williams added the school was planning to speak to the parents opposed to photos being taken to try to find a solution but said pulling the child from the play was not an option because the move could be interpreted as a punishment.

Alan Garnett, headteacher of North Primary School in Colchester, said: "The guidance was e-mailed to us on December 2, so it gives schools no time this year to react to the situation.

"What this school is doing is the same as last year, which is to allow parents to take photographs and video because we do not have enough space to get them all in to the performances.

"Then after Christmas we are going to canvass the opinion of parents regarding this matter and the governors will then make a decision which will cover all the events we have.

"It is a sad state of events and it is a very difficult situation to manage because if one person exercises their right of veto, then we do one of two things – either ban photography or you keep photography and the child is placed into a position where they wont be taking part and that is not acceptable."

Jacqui Green, south eastern area representative for the National Primary Headteachers Association, said the legislation would be important throughout the school year but did not think all would have it in place for this Christmas.

The guidelines sent out from Essex Local Education Authority said: "Unfortunately, the actions of a minority in misusing visual images, in particular through the use of the internet, have meant that local authorities and schools need to pay particular attention to the requirements of data protection legislation."

A spokesman for the authority said: "The options are that, either no photography is allowed, or that the child is not allowed to be at the function, or worse still, the function would be cancelled."

He added there was a need for common sense to prevail on the issue.

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