Parents taking photos at Christmas time – where do schools stand?

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has released a press release “Parents can snap away this Christmas” regarding parents taking photos of children at Christmas plays and events. The ICO states that the “Data Protection Act does not prevent family and friends from taking photographs at school concerts or plays this Christmas” and schools cannot and should not ban them from doing so.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham said: “Having a child perform at a school play or a festive concert is a very proud moment for parents and is understandably a memory that many want to capture on camera. It is disappointing to hear that the myth that such photos are forbidden by the Data Protection Act still prevails in some schools. A common sense approach is needed – clearly, photographs simply taken for a family album are exempt from data protection laws. Armed with our guidance, parents should feel free to snap away this Christmas and stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say ‘Bah, Humbug’ to a bit of festive fun.”

The ICO has produced guidance to dispel any confusion and explain parents’ rights under the Act, explaining that the Data Protection Act (DPA) is unlikely to apply in most situations where photographs are taken by parents in schools. The DPA does apply when photographs of children are taken for official use by a school or college such as for issuing identification passes or publicity purposes. In the other small number of instances where the APD does apply, if the photographer obtains permission from the parent or individual to take a photograph, then this will usually be enough to ensure compliance.

The full information can be found here:



Many schools have been querying this practise with the e-Safety Officer after complaints about parents posting photos of children and staff events on social networking sites. As the ICO states, this is considered to be “personal use” and therefore is acceptable, however the main concern arises when there are vulnerable children or adults (such as looked after children, adopted children or those fleeing domestic abuse) included and shared online without consent.  It is good practise for schools to remind or request parents to be careful about which photos they choose to share online and to highlight the need for us all to think before we post in order to help protect all members of the school community.

If a photo or video is shared online that could be considered to put a member of the school community at risk, then it is essential that the person who posted the image is asked to remove it as soon as possible. If the photo contains an image of a child under the age of 13 then sites such as Facebook will remove unauthorised images or videos is they are contacted by parents/carers using the form found for images here or for a video here. For more information regardining removing an image of aFacebook visit the help centre


Schools could encourage parents/carers to consider the following ideas before they share photos or videos online:

  • Once posted and shared online any image or video can be copied and will stay online forever.
  • Some people do not want their images online for personal or religious reasons.
  • Some children, families and staff may have a complex family background which means that sharing their image online can have unforeseen consequences.
  • Some children and adults are at risk and MUST NOT have their image put online and not all members of the school community will know who they are. Always ask permission before sharing photos or videos online.
  • In order to keep all members of the school community safe we must all ‘Think Before We Post’ photos and videos online

Another suggestion schools may wish to use to discuss concerns with the school community is to use their Home School Agreement and the addition of a paragraph related to parents/ carers and children’s use of technology outside of school.  A possible statement to add could be: ‘We will support the school’s approach to e-Safety and will not upload or add any pictures, video or text that could upset, offend or threaten the safety of any member of the school community’

For more information contact:

Michelle Hunt, Access to Information Co-ordinator, CFE, 01622 696692 Information on the Data Protection Act

Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer, CFE, 01622 221469 e-Safety Information

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