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Boy outside school toilet
School toilets are notoriously bad

The news that more than 200 schools use CCTV cameras in toilets or changing rooms will no doubt shock many parents, but is CCTV in school loos good or bad?

Radclyffe School in Oldham topped the list of schools with 20 cameras in toilet facilities. Its head teacher, Hardial Hayer, said the cameras are above doors entering toilets and only overlook washbasins. He said the cameras had been placed so it was possible to tell who was going in, but added they are not near cubicles.

This raises serious questions about the importance of the privacy of school children and about purpose of use, data protection and excessive surveillance. Is CCTV in school loos an infringement of privacy or does it provide peace of mind for parents and children that their school’s toilets are safe and monitored?

Susan Lewis, Chief Inspector for Wales commented: “You can tell a school by its toilet. They say an awful lot about a school and tell you about the value the school places on its environment.”

Schools need to ensure children can use toilets when they need to, which is why it's important for them to consider the whole toilet environment. Simply keeping facilities clean and in good condition is not enough. All aspects of privacy and toilet-use should be considered to ensure a healthy and pleasant environment is provided for pupils. This should go beyond adequate provision of toilet paper, soap and hand towels. Unfortunately, not all schools go the extra mile.

A quarter of pupils avoid using school toilets – some even stop drinking to avoid needing to use the toilet. Many toilet blocks are located in isolated areas of school grounds, leaving children feeling vulnerable. Many are unsupervised which infcreases instances of bullying or vandalism.

CCTV cameras are best used when other options to keep toilets safe and free from vandalism have failed. Their aim is to make toilets a safer environment for pupils and to prevent anti-social behaviour such as smoking, vandalism and graffiti. They can allow schools to keep toilets open at times when they would normally be locked and that is good news for school children.

Visit ERIC's Right to Go campaign page to find out more about best practice in school toilets. 

CCTV cameras in school toilets remains a contentious issue and will undoubtedly continue to be widely debated amongst teaching staff, parents and pupils in the future. What's your opinion?