The fine line between surveillance and supervision

Trevor Wallace, MD of METRO Security, asks whether technology can teach us all a valuable lesson in the difference between the two

‘See me’ used to be a dreaded instruction on marked homework, but in today’s classroom it would appear that the reaches of the new GDPR and admonishment from the ICO is far more feared – even when there has never been more of an appetite for ‘all-seeing’ technology that balances the needs for safety with new generational learning.

A recent blog in Ed Tech suggested that many educational establishments have become ‘paralysed’ by the impending regulation which becomes law on May 25. They falsely believe that compliance lies in ‘stopping doing everything you are currently doing’ rather than understanding the sensible and pragmatic application of the rules surrounding personal data.

But in these days of schools showing grace under funding pressure, there is a growing appreciation for a new generation of technology that drives efficiencies, has the ability to keep students and staff safe, but also has the potential to make better teachers and more engaged classrooms.

You only have to look across the Atlantic to witness the wave of student anger over gun controls in and around schools, and in the UK we are in the eye of a storm surrounding violent crime on our streets, much of which spills into our playgrounds and classrooms. The case of Ann Maguire, stabbed to death by a student she taught, is an ongoing fear among all teaching staff.

At the recent BETT show in London we were approached by a number of schools eager to learn about ‘lock down’ security protocols to deal with such incidents, despite the fact that such extreme measures have their own inherent limitations.

However, there is an argument for greater use of all-encompassing camera technologies that not only have the potential to keep staff and students safe, but also monitor teaching performance and how they are coming across to recipients.

“Many technologies now exist that operate in the margins of legal tolerance, so there is no reason why schools should receive a red or black mark or a ‘see me’ from the ICO.”

Consent is the GDPR watchword here. All parties must be aware of the camera’s capabilities, who can view it and where and how the data is stored, as well as for how long.

This was very much behind the thinking of a new digital teaching aid that monitors tutor and pupil engagement during lessons and, because it was developed by the teachers themselves, offers the students the ability to ‘see me’ without the need for red pen messages in the margins.

Called eyeTeach, the system allows teachers to view themselves in the classroom and review both their own performance and that of their students. Additional uses include class presentations, one-to-one student reviews and allowing a simply push-button device to mark significant points during any lesson.

GDPR compliant, it can only be activated by teachers permitted to monitor the footage. It also only films for a prescribed time – defined by the lesson length – before automatically switching off.

Teachers can play back lessons to study interaction frame-by-frame and assess levels of pupil engagement, which is useful in a fiscal environment where teaching assistants are not necessarily a viable solution.

This can also aid emphasis on pupils who may struggle with levels of understanding and concentration, and provide support evidence for necessary interactions without the teacher having to write up lengthy reports. In this capacity, it really aids increasingly time-poor and over-stretched teaching staff.

It must be said to all teaching staff that GDPR is not there to trip them up in their day-to-day lives and, conversely, not all camera-assisted technology in the classroom acts as the nemesis of the new regulation. Many technologies now exist that operate in the margins of legal tolerance, so there is no reason why schools should receive a red or black mark or a ‘see me’ from the ICO.

For further information, contact John Wilson at Free Range Heads Ltd on 07766 660790 or email

For more on Metro Security, click here.