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April 2019
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Media law expert Cleland Thom gives advice to schools about media coverage

With the summer term coming up, it is worth reminding schools that taking photographs of children at sports days and other activities does not usually breach the Data Protection Act.

There have been repeated occasions when photographers have been prevented from taking photographs at school events by heads or teachers quoting the DPA or government guidelines.

But the IC has reminded LEAs and those working in schools, colleges and universities, that the DPA is unlikely to apply in many situations where photographs are taken in schools.

Some local authorities are still issuing head teachers with guidance that the Information Commission has said is wrong, and based on myths.

It has stressed that the media are entitled to take photographs, and publish children’s full names and ages.

Schools do have a duty to inform parents that the press are present, and why. And it is the school’s job – not the photographer’s – to make sure photographs are not taken of children whose parents have withheld consent.

The DPA does not prevent photographers from asking children’s names and ages for captions – and the details can be used without consent.

But teachers are within their rights to refuse to pass on names and ages, as they are covered by the DPA.

The government has never issued guidelines to schools about media photography. It leaves the final decision to individual schools and LEAs.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law-

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