NEU Guidance for Members, Reps and Local Officers around the development and implementation of photograpic policies in schools

It is common for school employers to have photographic policies in order to comply with:

  • The Data Protection Act 2018
  • The General Data Protection Regulations
  • Child Protection legislation and regulations

The Information Commissioner, who is responsible for compliance with data protection legislation, has published advice on taking photographs in schools and colleges, and the advice set out in this briefing is drawn from that, together with guidance from the DfE and the Welsh Government.
This briefing sets out:

  • the legal obligations upon schools and colleges
  • the role of head teachers
  • the implications for staff

Photographs in schools

Photographic policies will usually cover some or all the following:

  • individual or group portraits for parents/carers
  • publicity photographs produced by the school for handbooks/websites
  • parents/carers recording school events i.e. sports’ day
  • press/media photography
  • the use of CCTV cameras

Relevant guidance on each is set out below.

What is personal data?

The General Data Protection Regulations define personal data as any information which are related to an identified or identifiable natural person (i.e. a human being).  Personal data is caught by data protection legislation if it is processed wholly or partly by automated means, or forms part of a relevant filing system.  Furthermore, Section 68 of the Freedom of Information Act extends the definition of data to include “recorded information held by a public authority” which includes all data held and processed manually even if it does not form part of a relevant filing system.

Individual/group pupil photographs

Schools and colleges should use professional photographers to take individual/group pupil photographs.  This will ensure compliance with the data protection legislation and that:

  • material is used only for the school’s/college’s own purposes
  • photographs are not used for any other purpose without seeking the data subject’s consent first
  • the photographer does not share the photographs with any other party unless specifically required to do so under the contract with the school/college or where written permission has been given by the school/college
  • the photographer/agency retains evidence that they have followed the steps set out above

Some schools/colleges make use of individual student portraits for security purposes, for example storing electronic images with other personal data.  Images stored in this way fall within the definition of personal data and school/college management must therefore ensure that:

  • parents/carers/guardians of students are informed that images are to be retained by the school/college
  •  images will be securely stored and only used by those authorised to do so

Publicity photographs produced by the schools/colleges for handbooks and/or websites

The Information Commissioner’s Good Practice note on ‘taking photographs in schools’ provides the following example:
"A small group of pupils are photographed during a science lesson and the photo is to be used in the school prospectus.  This will be personal data but will not breach the Act as long as the children and/or their guardians are aware this is happening and of the context in which the photo will be used."
The DfE is not prescriptive on this point although they do advise (contrary to the Information Commissioner’s guidance) as follows:
"Schools and local authorities are free to decide on their own policies relating to the use of such images or the release of associated information for their own publicity purposes.  We do, however, advise that the photographs and video images of pupils and staff are classed as personal data……"
The Union supports the DfE guidance and would expect schools/colleges to draw up their own policies on photography.
The NEU advises that if schools/colleges use images of students or staff in publicity material, such as school/college prospectuses, handbooks and websites, consent must be given by the individuals concerned or, in the case of pupils under the age of sixteen, by their parents/carers/guardians.  Pupils/students must be advised of the purpose for which the photos are being taken.
If the images are to be retained for further use, the individual or legal guardian concerned must be informed and assured that the images are securely stored and only used by those authorised to do so.
The NEU view is that where photographs of students are used in school publications, including the website, the students should not be named.  Conversely, if a student’s name appears, the student’s image should not.
There may be some circumstances where it would be appropriate for the school/college to publicise a student’s name with a photograph, for example, Head Girls and Head Boys, but the parents must be asked for their permission before such information is publicised if the student is not old enough to give consent on their own behalf.  For the purposes of compliance with the DPA, a `fair processing’ notice should be issued by the school/college setting out:

  • the identity of the data controller (usually the governing body)
  • the purpose or purposes for which the photographs are intended to be processed
  • any other organisations to which the photographs may be distributed; and
  • when the photographs are likely to be destroyed

A school/college may decide to do this when a student first starts at the school/college or on an annual basis.

Parents/carers photographing school events

The Information Commissioner’s guidance gives the following example and advice:
"A parent takes a photo of their child and some friends taking part in the school sports day. These images are for personal use and the Data Protection Act does not apply. Grandparents are invited to the school nativity play and wish to video it.  These images are for personal use and the Data Protection Act does not apply."
The DfE advises that schools and local authorities are free to develop and implement their own policies regarding the use of cameras and videos by parent/carers at school events.  This would include a parent member of the PTA who videos an event and then sells copies to parents who may not have such recording equipment or school staff wanting to record events involving their students or their form group.  Such material may not be for school publication use, but might be used later in the classroom, e.g. video, photos/slides/PowerPoint presentation of a geography field trip, history site study.  As long as parents are notified of the purposes for which the photographs or images will be used there will be no conflict with data protection legislation.
Although data protection is not applicable here, there are two other considerations; practicalities and child protection issues.
The NEU advises that some or all the following suggestions could be incorporated into schools’ policies on parents/carers photographing school events:

  • lnclude in the schools’ admission form, a section for parents/carers to sign to indicate that any images they take of school activities will not be used inappropriately.
  • Include in letters inviting parents to school events a returnable slip for parents to sign indicating that any photographs taken will not be used inappropriately.
  • Give written confirmation that photography only takes place in designated areas, for example during sports days on the sports fields.
  • Where schools create their own photographic record of events, such arrangements should be announced in the letter inviting parents to the event.

Media photography and CCTV

Media photography

The Information Commissioner’s Good Practice note provides the following example:
‘A photograph is taken by a local newspaper of a school awards ceremony.  As long as the school has agreed to this, and the children and/or their guardians are aware that photographs of those attending the ceremony may appear in the newspaper, this will not breach the Act.’
If local newspapers sell such images the school is not the data controller and cannot be held responsible for the actions of the press.
The concerns here are likely to fall within the area of child protection.  If press photographers do record school events, any published photographs should not identify individual students by name.


Increasingly, schools/colleges are introducing CCTV cameras for the purposes of security and to address concerns about student behaviour.  The NEU has reservations about the introduction of CCTV cameras and the balance between surveillance of students and potential overt or covert surveillance of staff, must be paramount.
If a school/college is considering the introduction of a CCTV system, certain requirements under data protection and human rights legislation must be complied with both before the installation of the system and once it is up and running.  The key requirements to ensure compliance are listed in Appendix One

Action points for safety reps

In order to preclude covert surveillance of staff, the following safeguards should be sought by NEU health and safety representatives at school level (or health and safety advisers at LA level) before CCTV systems are installed:

  • that the purpose of the CCTV system is school security and/or monitoring pupils’ behaviour
  • that data storage conforms to the requirements of the Data Protection Act
  • that the process for disclosing data about individuals is transparent and available to all staff
  • that the operation and maintenance of the system is subject to regular reviews which are made available to Safety Reps (or Health and Safety Advisers)

CCTV can be a useful resource for schools/colleges provided there are requisite safeguards.
CCTV cameras should be positioned outside classrooms/lecture theatres/computer suites which will ensure that there is no potential for misuse, i.e. covert surveillance of staff.  The Information Commissioner advises that "continuous videoing of particular individuals is only likely to be justified in rare circumstances."
If management in a school/college do not consider that siting a camera outside a classroom/suite will be sufficient to prevent theft or vandalism, the health and safety representative/adviser should seek written assurances that the CCTV will only be activated when the room is not being used for teaching and that any footage will not be used for staff disciplinaries or for performance management.
There are circumstances where covert monitoring may be lawful.  Regional/Wales office advice should always be sought in these cases.

IRIS Connect and AV1 Robots in the classroom

IRIS Connect

The IRIS Connect system essentially enables trainees and experienced teachers alike to video and audio record their lessons.  After a recording has taken place, the video is uploaded directly to the individual’s personal password protected account in the IRIS Connect online platform where they may watch it back for their own personal reflection or share with a colleague for feedback.
The providers of IRIS Connect purport that each video recorded will be stored in the individual’s personal library and that no-one can access any video located in another user’s personal library without permission.  Furthermore, access to a user’s personal library may be revoked at any time, and the person with whom videos are shared will not be able to share them with anyone else.
It is also possible to receive ‘in-ear coaching’ with IRIS Connect, where the lesson is viewed remotely by a coach who communicates privately with the teacher using a ‘LiveView camera’ and a discreet wireless earpiece.

AV1 Robots in the classroom

AV1 robots are used increasingly in classrooms to support the education of children and young adults who are unable to attend class in person.  This may be because they have long-term or chronic illnesses.  AV1 robots incorporate visual and audio systems to enable students to see, hear and talk to classmates remotely.
Safety features The equipment does not record video/sound – it only streams it live to the viewer.  However, members may rightly be concerned of the possibility that it could be recorded on other equipment e.g. a mobile phone, and then uploaded unto social media.  Parents and students are usually asked to sign some sort of agreement not to misuse the robot, but this requires the teacher whose sessions will be viewed to depend only on the trustworthiness of those involved.  
Is speech and appearance ‘personal data?

Yes, it is.  It is ‘special category data’ if it can identify a person’s race and/or ethnic origin.  Special category data is personal data which the GDPR says is more sensitive and so needs more protection.  In order to lawfully process special category data, a school or college must identify both the lawful basis for processing it under Article 6, and a separate condition for processing special category data under Article 9.  
Is ‘livestreaming’ images and sounds processing?

When a camera is being used to film people this entails processing of their personal data.  It does not matter that AV1 robot is live streaming and not recording.

What is the NEU’s position on the use of AV1 robots and IRIS Connect in classrooms?

The NEU does not believe the use of innovative technology in schools is intrinsically good or bad.  We do, however, stress the importance of informed consent and the need for schools to engage in consultation with parents, students and school/college staff before introducing potentially intrusive technology of this kind.  If students and staff wish to opt out of having their image and speech captured by these devices, they should be able to do so.

The NEU’s redlines on the use of AV1 robots and IRIS Connect

  • The equipment must not be introduced to the school/college in the absence of consultation with pupils, parents and staff;
  • The equipment should remain under the control of the individual teacher at all stages and in all circumstances;
  • Staff with responsibility for the equipment must receive appropriate training, including training on the data protection and human rights obligations of the school/college governing body to pupils/students and to staff;
  • Permission to share video and audio footage with peers and other third parties must first be sought from the teacher whose lessons are being recorded and from parents/students of pupils/students who appear in the recording;
  • Neither system should be used for surveillance;
  • Teachers should not be directed to use the technology.  Its use must be voluntary;
  • Students who do not want their image to be captured by the equipment should have the option to opt out of lessons where video footage of the entire class will or may be captured.

ID badges for staff

Some schools have introduced identity badges for staff as part of school security policies.
To amount to ‘fair processing’, the introduction of identity badges must be a proportionate response to the security needs of the school/college and the safety of staff and students.  This may well be a proportionate response where the school/college has experienced breaches of security in the past or where a risk assessment has identified weaknesses in school security.  Staff should be consulted fully about the introduction of name badges.