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Hunstanton school puts CCTV cameras in toilets

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A West Norfolk secondary school's decision to install CCTV cameras on its premises has been branded a "Big Brother" move by critics.

Parents of pupils at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton have been told the cameras were placed in students' toilets over the half-term holiday and will go live from tomorrow.

The school says the move is intended to prevent vandalism, protect students' safety and help to resolve any concerns or accusations.

Smithdon High School in Hunstanton (20731959)
Smithdon High School in Hunstanton (20731959)

But, so far, officials have not confirmed whether the decision has been triggered by any specific incidents.

And concerns are being voiced about the decision over social media with one claiming: "Big Brother is watching."

Opponents have also alleged that parents were not consulted about the issue before the cameras were installed.

Smithdon High School Exterior. (20731964)
Smithdon High School Exterior. (20731964)

However, Smithdon headteacher John Hirst said: "The installation of CCTV in the student toilets is not new to schools to West Norfolk or indeed the country - it is a common policy for many schools to ensure the safeguarding of pupils.

"We have installed CCTV at Smithdon to secure the health and personal safety of all students and to prevent vandalism and damage. We also want to be able to ensure effective resolution of any concerns or accusations.

"The cameras are designed to only see the entrance of the toilets and the hand basins. We must stress that students' privacy is assured, and that access is restricted to the head of our site team for the viewing of the cameras.

"We welcome any parents to get in touch with us with their questions and concerns about the CCTV."

The letter said the cameras were designed to see only the entrance to the toilets and handbasins and insisted students' privacy was "assured", with only the head of site being able to access the footage.

The school is part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which says it has a policy for the use of CCTV but does not use it in all its schools.

A spokesman said: "Signs are displayed to notify all users that CCTV is in operation and the images filmed are held in a secure location that can only be accessed by those who are authorised to do so.

"Every camera records simultaneously and the images are stored on disc for a period of up to 10 days. After that time all images are erased apart from any which relate to an incident subject to an ongoing investigation.

"Routine checks are also made to ensure that the system is operating in accordance with the terms of this policy, and that information relating to the recordings are accurate."

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