Two British schools trialling body cameras for teachers

LONDON (Reuters) - Teachers at two British schools are trialling the use of police-style body cameras to help maintain discipline, a survey revealed on Wednesday, prompting a civil liberties group to warn that teachers could be turned into snoopers.

The Times Educational Supplement survey said the experiment comes as over one-third of a sample of over 600 teachers said they would be willing to wear a camera, while one in five said it would improve their teaching.

The survey did not reveal the names of the schools undertaking the trial.

“The aim is to reduce constant low level classroom disruption which is reducing the effectiveness of teaching,” said Tom Ellis, a lecturer at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth who will be advising the schools trialling the cameras.

“Teachers are actually very concerned that they’re spending their time managing order in the classroom instead of actually teaching,” said Ellis, adding that students might become more aware of their behaviour if they knew it was being filmed.

Ellis told Reuters the pilot scheme started about two weeks ago and is likely to run for three months.

“The use of body cameras is not the same as CCTV. Body cameras within the classroom have to be incident-specific ... so the teacher has to be trained to make a decision as to whether use of the camera is necessary,” added Ellis, a former Home Office researcher.

Civil liberties groups have expressed concern.

“This sounds like an over the top response to an age old problem,” said Daniel Nesbitt, research director at Big Brother Watch.

“These schools have to be very careful about how they use this intrusive technology as it risks turning teachers into snoopers.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said that if schools had good behaviour policies they should not have to resort to using body cameras or CCTV.

“CCTV can have a useful role in monitoring entrances and exits to schools to prevent strangers gaining access or vandalism, but we do not support their use in schools to monitor children and staff,” she added.

According to the ATL, four out of 10 teachers experienced violence from pupils in 2015.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said trialling body-cams was a matter for schools to decide.

Editing by Stephen Addison