23 February, 2016
There has been recent media coverage regarding an employee at a nursery taking a photograph of a child on their first day of nursery playing with their friends to send the photo to the child's parent in order to reassure the parent that their child is settling in. It has been reported that Ofsted have stripped the nursery's outstanding rating to inadequate on the basis that taking such a photo jeopardises the safety of children.
We would advise as per the Data Protection Act 1998 that the official use of photography by educational settings, as an image of a child is considered to be personal data. It is therefore recommended that written consent is obtained from the parent of a child or young person under the age of 12 (or from the child him or herself if deemed to be competent to make such judgements from 12 years old as suggested by the Information Commissioner) for any photographs or video recordings. If it is not possible to obtain prior written parental consent, then images must not be taken involving the individual child or young person concerned.
The following is taken from the Department for Education website (2012): "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 photographs and video images of pupils and staff are classed as personal data under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998. Therefore using such images for school publicity purposes will require the consent of either the individual concerned or in the case of pupils, their legal guardians."
In regards to parents taking photos of their own children on school premises, the ICO recommends that this is permissible as long as it for personal use. We would advise however that schools consider highlighting this to parents in their policies, particularly if parents then go on to share those photos on social media, other parents may bring complaints stating they did not consent to their children being photographed and their personal data being shared in this way. In such circumstances we would advise the school would need to revisit its policy and consider changing it to ensure the privacy of all the children is secured.