Comment: Bodycams in Ofsted investigations
edTech / February 1, 2020
An understanding of the law of what is permissible, and its limitations, is often missing today in schools, regards the boundaries of filming children. This is true in a wide range of circumstances, whether it be the ‘Orwellian‘ use of CCTV in toilets, or webcam snapshots captured using classroom management software. Where filming is used in criminal investigations should be part of that policy, set out in a statutory code of practice for the sector.
There is a difference in the law in what Ofsted’s powers make permissible in a criminal investigation rather than routine inspection. Although scope creep is of concern, the immediate questions should be if, how and when, cameras would or should be used.
Common to many public sector new technology deployments there is little information available on oversight, or how the decision was made to start a new process. It appears not to have been discussed as part of 2019 Ofsted Board meetings.
Looking forwards, a transparency register publishing when and where bodycams are used could uphold public and professional trust in this new approach, and openness is important on how common it becomes, and with what safeguards for families affected.
Regards filming, for both children and staff, the inspectors will need to ensure that it will be the exception, not the norm and only where it is necessary, proportionate, and they cannot record evidence without being less invasive.
They will need to inform children and their families that they were filmed as part of a criminal investigation, and provide explicit information regards its limitations, the data retention and use, in line with the law.
Ofsted guidance https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/862272/Handbook_for_conducting_inspections_of_unregistered_schools_Jan2020.pdf
Ofsted privacy notice for schools https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ofsted-privacy-notices/schools-ofsted-privacy-notice#unregistered-schools
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