Parents’ anger after CCTV is installed in loos at Neasden primary school

Liam Coleman
A file image of Mitchell Brook Primary School in Neasden: Google Street View

CCTV cameras installed in the lavatories of a north London primary school to combat “anti-social behaviour” have prompted outrage among parents.

The discovery at Mitchell Brook Primary School, Neasden, has led to almost 100 parents signing a petition demanding they be removed.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has launched an investigation following complaints. The school has about 600 pupils aged between three and 11.

Muna Castronovo, 37, who has a nine-year-old daughter at the school, said the cameras were first spotted when parents were invited to meet new teachers and one of the visitors noticed the CCTV after looking through an open door.

She said: “We thought she was joking. We went around upstairs and there were cameras in all of them ... I was furious.” She added parents who raised objections were told that the cameras were installed to combat “vandalism”.

“We’re all disgusted,” said Ms Castronovo. “They said children were breaking the toilets, ripping out toilet seats but we’ve never ever had a complaint — it’s the first time we’re hearing about it.” Another parent said their daughter felt “intimidated, paranoid and embarrassed” over the cameras.

In a letter to the school, she added: “Children feeling they are unable to go to the toilet is unacceptable ... as a result of [my daughter’s] anxiety she has not been to school today and will not be returning until this problem is resolved.”

Headteacher Theresa Landreth sent a letter to parents on Monday stating: “After numerous costly repairs to the bathrooms through children flooding the area, as well as looking for further solutions to safeguarding children in the bathrooms, CCTV cameras were installed in the public space in the bathrooms that children from Year 1 to Pre Secondary use.

“All cameras within the bathroom face only the public shared spaces and in no way intrude on children’s privacy when using the toilet. I can also confirm that children do not get changed in the toilets.” She added the children has been made aware of the cameras and there was signage present.

A school spokeswoman said they had followed an established process in informing parents on the CCTV.

She added that as a gesture of goodwill the CCTV cameras which overlook the washbasins in the lavatories would be suspended for two weeks to enable concerned parents to meet the governing board. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers offers guidance on its website that says while CCTV is an “established part of education” it is “plainly unacceptable” for use in areas such as classrooms, changing rooms and lavatories.

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