The Long Lens blog: Photography with added snaps, art and culture

The photography site for sore eyes. Featuring: Art, photography, performance and theatre. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.

The nonsensical and unnecessary school photography ban

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Here’s a photo of my daughter’s school nativity play.

Those of you with an eye for detail may notice that there are no children in the photograph. That’s because her school ban photography of events like the nativity and Harvest Festival.

Is it the same at your child’s school? Have you missed out on photos of them performing or competing during sports day? The teachers might have told you it’s because of the Data Protection Act or for child protection.

They are lying to you.

There is no reason to ban photography of your child at their school, no safety issues, no government guidelines, and no recorded incidents off child protection issues caused by parents taking photographs of children at school.

The ban should be challenged and immediately lifted.

I have two children and experience of almost a dozen schools and pre-school classes they have attended. Some have had a photography ban, some have said, do what you want. I have fond memories of my son’s pre-school where there was no film or photography ban and I actually exchanged images I had taken fora video taken by another dad. Everyone was a winner. We have visual proof of cherished memories which would otherwise have been forgotten.

One school my son attended based their ban on having a child who had been taken into care before being fostered. It had a photography ban based on the fear that a photo published could lead to the child’s birth parents discovering where she was. This is as close as I’ve come to a valid reason why photography was banned.

But even then, the excuse seemed flimsy and, at another school who had a child attending in similar circumstances, there was no such ban.

So let’s get this straight, the Data Protection Act DOES NOT prevent parents or other family members from photographing their children at any school event. And when taking photographs, parents DO NOT need permission of other parents whose child might be in the photo.

The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, the Information Commissioner’s Office (you’ve probably never heard of them, but here’s a link revealing their stance) regularly issues statements clarifying that the Data Protection Act prohibits photography.

The biggest problem is that schools ARE allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow photography. And at some time in the last fifteen to twenty years a photography ban has crept into schools, probably on the back of similar bans in various sports organisations, largely built upon hysteria of an imagined danger of paedophilia linked to the taking of photographs.

No paedophile has ever been arrested in Britain for taking photographs of children at a school event. But there have been dozens of cases of parents being stopped from taking photos of their own children for no good reason other than hysteria.

The irony, of course, is that the schools which ban photography then offer a DVD of the nativity for as little as £5, which is surely of much more interest to any would-be pervert.

What the ban is doing is robbing parents – and their kids – of visual memories of the their childhoods. And this is a huge shame.

My five-year-old daughter can’t remember what she did last week, never mind a year ago. Photographs as documentary evidence are important for us all, they shape and validate memories which would otherwise be lost.

If you are a head teacher why not say, as others have done, ‘No photographs during the performance – but you can come to the front of the stage and take photos at the end’? They would do even better if they employed a photographer to take images of the kids in performance. Proper images, not just distant snapshots taken on crap iPhones. The school would probably make a killing selling these images to parents as well.

So come on, challenge your schools and fight for your right to photograph.

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