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Singapore

CCTV cameras required at all preschools by July 2024; parents may request footage within 'reasonable grounds'

Parents will be granted access to CCTV footage to assist with the investigation of serious incidents, says ECDA.

CCTV cameras required at all preschools by July 2024; parents may request footage within 'reasonable grounds'

A file photo of a security camera in a classroom. (Photo: iStock/onurdongel)

SINGAPORE: Closed-circuit television cameras will be mandatory at all preschools and government-funded early intervention centres from Jul 1 next year, and parents will be given access to footage to assist with the investigation of “serious incidents”. 

The move follows a regular review of security and safety measures in the early childhood sector, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said on Thursday (Aug 31). 

The agency said it has been engaging the preschool sector since last year and it informed operators in February this year of plans to make CCTVs compulsory. This decision also took the views of parents, educators and preschool operators into consideration, it added. 

“Parents’ access to CCTV footage will only be granted for the purposes of providing an objective reference point to clarify feedback or to assist the investigation of serious incidents within the preschool premises. The request should be within reasonable grounds,” said the agency. 

From Jul 1, 2024, CCTV cameras will be required in key access points and areas used by children such as classrooms, activity rooms, play areas within the premises and infant napping rooms. 

To ensure the privacy of employees and children, CCTV cameras will not be allowed in toilets, changing rooms and staff rest areas. 

The agency will share a set of guidelines with preschool operators on Friday. 

More than 60 per cent of preschools and all early intervention centres have already installed CCTV cameras on their premises.

"CCTV cameras will enhance the security of the preschool by deterring suspicious or unauthorised persons from entering the premises,” said ECDA.

“In the event of incidents, CCTV footage can be an objective and reliable source of evidence to support the investigation.

"The implementation of CCTV cameras will complement existing measures to provide a safe and secure environment in our preschools so parents and educators will have a greater peace of mind.”

Preschools that have yet to install such cameras told ECDA that they required time to make the necessary arrangements.

This includes putting in place clear policies and proper protocols to access the footage. 

The agency said it will work closely with operators to ensure their CCTV system and cameras are installed properly and used appropriately to protect the privacy of children, staff members and other people within preschool premises.

Can parents ask to view CCTV footage?

ECDA said that parents may put in a request to the preschool to view CCTV footage specific to their concern or issue.

The agency also encouraged parents to discuss the request with the preschool and assess if it is necessary to view the footage for the issue to be resolved.

Recorded footage should be shown only after the preschool has viewed it as part of its own investigation. This is provided that the incident is not under investigation by ECDA or any enforcement agency.

The footage should only be viewed for the purposes of:

  • Providing an objective reference point to clarify an incident which might have compromised the child’s safety. For example, in cases where a member of staff is alleged to have mishandled a child.
  • Assisting in the investigation of incidents such as injury – either to children or staff members –  damage or loss of preschool property.

Preschools can turn down a parent’s request if it is unreasonable, said ECDA.

In instances where access is given, safeguards must be in place to ensure the privacy and safety of other staff and children seen in the footage.

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CONCERN ABOUT CCTV CAMERAS

The issue of CCTVs in preschools came to the fore this week following incidents of alleged child abuse at two Kinderland preschools. 

Videos of two teachers allegedly mistreating children at the Woodlands Mart centre and Sunshine Place centre emerged recently. 

Both were arrested this week, with one of them charged on Wednesday with ill-treating a child.

Videos of the incidents at the Woodlands Mart centre were widely circulated on social media. A former Kinderland teacher told CNA that she had recorded the footage

At that time, the centre only had CCTV cameras installed along common corridors, entrances and exits

Kinderland Singapore announced on Tuesday that it would install more CCTVs at the two centres, including in classrooms and activity areas.

ECDA said on Thursday that the mandatory implementation of CCTV cameras in preschools was not due to the recent incidents on child safety.

"ECDA has planned this move for the preschool sector since last year as part of our regular review of security and safety measures in the early childhood sector," said the agency.

"This decision is taken after taking in views from parents, educators and operators."

Kinderland has also since banned staff from using personal devices at work, a move which it said will protect the privacy of children at their schools.

In response to CNA's queries, Kinderland said on Thursday morning that the ban on personal devices was not intended to stop "whistleblowing". 

"By reinforcing the use of only company devices to take photos/videos of children, Kinderland hopes to reduce the tendency to use personal devices for official purposes," it added. 

Source: CNA/zl(mi)

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