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Schools trial body cameras to aid safety and monitor behaviour | Education

Schools in England are equipping teachers with body cameras to monitor pupil behaviour and improve safeguarding, as part of a trial that could lead to them being deployed on a permanent basis.

At least two state secondary schools, one in London and one in Hampshire, said they have been impressed by the operation of the body cameras – lightweight versions of those worn by police – and hope to retain them.

Larry Davis, the deputy headteacher of Southfields academy in Wimbledon, said the use of body cameras by a small number of staff had improved behaviour and lessened the number of dangerous confrontations since they were introduced at the start of the school year.

“My aim is how best can we just focus on the teaching and learning rather than dealing with confrontations. Since we have introduced [cameras] we have very few issues in regards to that – maybe once a month,” Davis told Schools Week, which first reported the body cameras trial.

The school trials are being promoted by Reveal, which supplies body cameras to a number of UK police forces and other institutions including hospitals, and aims to sell the cameras and their related software to schools.

Reveal said one of the users, a secondary school in Hampshire that did not want to be named, wanted body cameras for safeguarding and security after staff and a student were attacked last year by outsiders, forcing the school into lockdown.

“The main reason we brought cameras in was not to deal with our own students but to deal with unknown children that came on to our site from other schools and the local community,” a deputy headteacher at the school said.

“We have had incidents where children come in through the school gates and on to the site with the intention to disrupt the running of the school through verbal or physical abuse.

“We have also had a number of issues with local youths trying to access the site, stones being thrown, children running across the roofs of our buildings. We’ve put anti-climb paint but that has not deterred them. And it’s not just a problem for us, it’s affecting all the schools in the area.”

The school said local police found evidence from the body cameras was more useful in making arrests, and that their presence was deterring disruptive behaviour, with staff equipped with the cameras also wearing high-vis jackets labelled “body-worn video” at the school gates.

“Sometimes the fact that we approach with a camera has the desired behavioural effect without even needing to turn it on. We’re definitely going to keep going with the cameras; it’s not something we can come back from because of what it’s done for us as a tool to safeguard our students,” the Hampshire deputy head said.

A representative for Reveal said it had received an increasing number of inquiries about body cameras from schools, hospitals and retail outlets because of staff experiencing aggressive behaviour. The company said it had developed a “softer brand” of cameras that “look less imposing and more clinical, and more like they naturally belong on a teacher or a nurse”, said Ben Read of Reveal.

Read said the individual cameras cost £249, along with £15-a-month fee to use secure software for downloading and viewing footage. The schools involved are using a small number of body cameras, about six, rather than for every classroom teacher.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and an experienced secondary school head, said he doubted that body cameras would be considered by many schools.

“There are clearly going to be questions about whether body cameras are appropriate in the setting of a school but we support the right of school leaders and governing bodies to make decisions about the measures they use to maintain discipline and security,” Barton said.

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