By Jon Slattery
An evening paper has won a battle against a town’s head teachers who were refusing to allow it to use any pictures of schoolchildren.
Last autumn, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph in Kettering was told that the primary head teachers’ association in Wellingborough had decided that it would only release pictures if the paper agreed to only use pupils’ first names.
It was another example of the fear of paedophiles being used to deny pictures of schoolchildren which have traditionally been part of the way local papers cover their community.
When the paper refused, the heads told editor David Penman they would not allow the Evening Telegraph to use any pictures of the children in any circumstances.
Penman was told the ban had been imposed after the primary heads met and voted on the issue. It meant pictures of Wellingborough school pupils were excluded from the Telegraph’s First Class supplement featuring first-year pupils in its circulation area.
“There was a standoff,” he said. “We published pictures of all the first-year classes apart from those in Wellingborough. The heads in Wellingborough came under pressure from parents, met again and voted to rescind their decision.”
The head teachers have now told parents that if they don’t want their children to appear in the Evening Telegraph, they can opt out and the school will exclude them from photographs.
Penman said: “I was concerned that we were going to have reports of football teams which read ‘John scored after a cross from Peter’ and that we couldn’t give full names of children who had won art or poetry prizes. It would have been ludicrous. I think it was an important stand to take.”
Penman told Press Gazette he had never had a complaint from a parent about using pictures of their children.
“I think it is an overreaction to Soham. The idea that paedophiles are out there queueing up to buy our newspaper so they can abduct small children is frankly ludicrous.
“We have never had a problem with a parent saying they did not want
pictures of their children in the paper. It is only institutions that have made it an issue.”
Feature, page 20