Clarke: advice on taking pictures of school events was ‘misinterpreted’
Education Secretary Charles Clarke has revealed that his department has never issued advice to schools restricting the press from photographing pupils for fear of attracting paedophiles.
Instead, he claimed some local authorities and schools have “misinterpreted” guidance given by the Department for Education and Skills about schools using video and photographic images of their own pupils for publicity purposes.
Clarke was responding to complaints from the Newspaper Society that the local press is encountering increasing difficulty taking traditional pictures of school events, such as plays and sports, due to fears they would help paedophiles prey on pupils. Papers have also been wrongly told that allowing pictures to be taken would breach the Data Protection Act.
In a letter to Clarke last month, the Newspaper Society noted informal advice issued by the DfES publicity division at the end of 2002. This recommended that, where a pupil is pictured, their name should not be used or when they are named, use of their photograph should be avoided.
The society told Clarke that “without names, pictures are of limited interest to local newspapers” and supplied him with cuttings highlighting some of the problems faced by local papers.
But in his reply Clarke said: “My department has not issued advice about the press photographing school pupils. The advice referred to in your letter was given in response to inquiries from schools about using video and photographic images for their own publicity purposes, such as displaying images of pupils or staff on websites, in their own publications, or in a public place within the school.
“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 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.”
Clarke said the DfES had revised and clarified the advice, which is carried on its child protection website.
The site now says that the advice relates solely to the use of images “by schools for their own publicity purposes”.
It says if schools or parents have concerns about the use of pictures by the press, they should contact the Press Complaints Commission.
The Editors’ Code of Practice says that pupils should not be photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
The Newspaper Society is due to meet the DfES to discuss the issue next Thursday. Clarke’s response is likely to be widely welcomed by regional editors.
PUPIL PICTURES: RECENT LOWLIGHTS
Jan 03: Swimming gala in Wales banned any pictures being taken of children in their bathing costumes – even by parents.
Feb 03: The Universe ditches plans for youth mag because of youth group and parents’ fears.
April 03: Melton Times freelance photographer invoices U-13 rugby team after being halted taking match pictures.
Dec 03: Kettering schools ban Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph from naming children pictured in First Class – the newspaper’s annual supplement.
By Jon Slattery