It’s that time of year when proud parents enjoy watching their children perform in Christmas shows and the school nativity play.
But in an age dominated by smartphones and social media where capturing every precious moment has become second nature, many schools prohibit parents from taking photos.
While this might seem like an infringement of parental rights, the reasoning behind these bans often revolves around safeguarding the privacy and security of pupils and maintaining a focused learning environment.
So what is the legal position? What are the arguments for and against?
Dundee-raised lawyer Michael Boyd, 50, proprietor of Boyd’s Law in Forfar, said the issues tend to be more about data protection and right to a private life rather than individual schools and head teachers wanting to impose a ban.
Even if only a few parents opt their children out of being photographed, it might mean no children can have their pictures taken.
Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity said: “Capturing children and young people’s special moments, like taking part in school plays or sports days, can be a way to celebrate and record their successes.
“However, if some children and families’ images are shared this may put them at risk of harm.
“If, for example, they have experienced abuse, the perpetrator may be able to trace them online.
“Families may also have other reasons for not wishing their photos to be shared.
“It is good practice for schools, clubs and other organisations to ask families for consent to take photos of their children.”
What’s the position of Fife, Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross councils?
The Courier contacted Fife, Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross councils which all confirmed they have no blanket “one-size fits all” policy.
It’s for parents/carers to decide whether they want their children to be photographed and filmed.
It’s up to individual schools to check the preferences of parents and carers on this during the course of a school term.
Final decisions will then be led by the photo permissions the schools have.
A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “Schools in Perth and Kinross will, where possible, allow for photos/videos to be taken of pupils as long as they are done so in line with our policy for photography/filming on school grounds.
“We advise that before any photos or videos are shared publicly on channels such as social media, permission is sought for every child in the photo or video, and this is routinely done at the start of the school year.”
A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “All schools need to have permissions to have any media taken of young people and if permission has not been given then no photos/videos should be taken.
“As all children should be allowed to participate in such activities, it is therefore necessary to request no photos/videos are taken.”
However, a parent who wasn’t allowed to take photos or video at his daughter’s school Christmas concert this week expressed concern.
He said: “I find it really sad we’ll have no lasting memories of my daughter’s performance.
“I understand there might be sensitivities to do with children in certain situations possibly requiring anonymity.
“But it would be lovely to look back on a video of my daughter performing and now I can’t because of a ban that didn’t exist a few years ago.”
Can a ‘balance’ be struck over school nativity play photo ban?
Retired Fife councillor Bryan Poole – a parent and grandparent who was most recently Fife Council’s executive spokesperson for education – has always been of the view that a child’s education experience is primarily dependent on the school and parents, preferably working together in partnership.
The sad and perhaps hard fact, he said, is that head teachers and teachers are dealing with child protection issues probably on a daily basis and thus are experienced in making judgements.
However, he believes there’s a balance to be struck.
He said: “In relation to Christmas concerts there will be a significant element of the curriculum involved in preparing and performing.
“All children should be encouraged to participate in some way to this kind of event because of the learning that is built in.
“If one or two parents do not wish to have photographs taken then that should be discussed with the head teacher/teacher and a compromise sought.
“But personally I don’t believe that any parent or group of parents should have the right to essentially ‘veto’ Christmas concert photographs.
“The majority of parents will want to take photos of their children at school events and personally I believe that builds a bond between the school and families.
“I recognise the sensitivity of this but head teachers/teachers are experienced in dealing with these kinds of issues and should be supported.”
What other reasons can lead to a public photo and video ban?
Cupar Youth Musical Theatre (CYMT) committee member and parent Monica Ironside said the main reason audience members were asked not to take photos or video during their recent critically-acclaimed production of We Will Rock You centred upon licensing.
A recording of the show was later sent out to parents/performers through a digital link.
“CYMT is maybe different from nativity plays, in that we need to pay for a licence for the show, pay royalties on the ticket sales and we also pay for a separate video licence which allows us to make only one recording of the show,” said Monica.
“Under licence, we can then only charge a small amount to cover the cost and can only send to those involved in the show and not the general public.
“Normally an ex-parent with filming equipment does this and DVDs are produced.
“But this year we didn’t have that option and paid a professional and a link seems to be the modern way of doing this.
“So, under our licence we can’t allow anyone to film.”