Webcams - the debate
Are Webcams the ultimate quality standard, which allow parents to
have complete open access to their chosen nursery, or do they represent
evidence of a breakdown of trust between parents and nursery staff? Will
they become an essential part of everyday life or are they just a
Published on Jan 2005, Practical Professional Child Care
Last August the BBC's Real Story programme Nurseries Undercover
unleashed a wave of panic for many parents throughout the country who
send their children to nursery. The programme made use of hidden webcams
to catch out unprofessional nursery staff and sparked off the debate of
whether webcams should be used in all nurseries. But the issues are
widespread - is it right to expect staff to be permanently under the eye
of a camera? How will it influence their behaviour? How safe id the
internet - could the systems be hacked into? Do webcams encourage
parents to become overly protective? And what about the children -
should they be show at all times, not just to their own parents but
A webcam system allows parents, using a password, to log onto a computer
at home or in the office and access a camera which shows live pictures
of their child in nursery.
The finishing touch
Michelle Redman, a mother of two, has no qualms about webcams - in fact
she actively encouraged the nursery she uses, Little Dreams in Feltham,
London, to install a system and was delighted when it was eventually in
place. However, the view of the professional associations such as the
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), the Daycare Trust and the
Pre-School Learning Alliance differs. They are more cynical of the need
for webcams in the first place. Michael Freeman, director of training
and quality at the Pre-School Learning Alliance feels that any need for
webcams to be installed shows a breakdown of trust. But Michelle, like
many other worried parents, is convinced the advantage of webcams is
that they act as a deterrent against unacceptable behaviour by nursery
staff. Although she has enjoyed a good relationship with Little Dreams,
the fact that the nursery manager installed the webcam provided the
finishing touch. "The webcam confirms what I feel about the nursery. I
know that they have nothing to hide", says Michelle. Her need for this
confirmation was perhaps driven by previous experience. Before turning
to Little Dreams Michelle used another nursery about which she became
increasingly uneasy, "There seemed to be accident reports every day. My
child would come home with scrapes that hadn't been attended to which
made me worry about the care he was receiving." The manager of this
nursery would not entertain the idea of installing webcams.
Providing parents with 'peace of mind' was the objective of webcams for
Bindi Dalal, owner of Little Dreams. The system was installed in July
because "we wanted parents to see what we do here" explains Bindi.
"There has been a lot of media coverage about nurseries but we have
nothing to hide so parents are welcome to view at any time." And this of
course is a great selling point - especially for new settings that have
no track record or good reputation to rely upon when trying to fill
Evelyn Halsall now uses Kingscliffe Day Nursery in Loughborough for her
child after a similar experience to Michelle. Her reaction to webcams
being introduced was 'brilliant - modern technology at itís best!' and
says that if she was starting the process of choosing a nursery again
she would definitely favour a nursery that has webcams - 'it's a major,
Installing a webcam system
Finding a company that suits your needs can take time. "I had decided to
use webcams from the time I first opened Little Dreams in June 2003,"
Bindi admits "but it took time to find a company to provide what I
Some parents agree and are uncomfortable with the thought that their
child is on camera. One concerned father in Gwent wondered what impact
it would have on his child to know that she could be seen at any time.
He also felt nervous about the effect it would have on staff, believing
that people are bound to behave differently when they know they are
being watched. He worried that the long term effects might be that staff
become so 'professional' that they lose that 'loving touch' that is so
vital when working with young children.
However, parents who use webcams say that it improves the relationship
with staff as it gives them a greater understanding of the work that
staff in nurseries do. "I couldn't believe how busy the staff are"
exclaims Evelyn Halsall, "I certainly have more admiration for them."
She explains that her relationship with staff is now more friendly and
relaxed, "Staff used to go through a book with me every day to say what
my child had done but now that formal process is reduced because I've
A nursery in Northampton uses CCTV cameras for these reasons. The
nursery owner took over the nursery two years ago, prior to this there
had been an allegation against a member of staff by a parent. Ofsted,
the police and social services were involved in the case and the member
of staff was cleared of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the parent is still
being persistent in their claims. The issue of whether or not to install
CCTV cameras was discussed with staff and it was decided that the
internal system would help to protect staff from false accusations, and
cameras installed outside the nursery would provide evidence of any
inappropriate behaviour by parents.
NurseryCam was able to provide suitable CCTV coverage with the option of
including webcams at some future point.
Mrs Cross, on the other hand, headteacher of the privately owned Sunny
Bank School and Sunny Bees Nursery in Burnley, is proud to be the first
in the country to introduce webcams not just in the nursery, but
throughout the primary school! She makes no bones about it - it is being
used as a marketing point to enrol more children but Mrs Cross is
absolutely convinced of the value of webcams: for the security of
everyone in the school; the added security when the school is shut; but
most especially for the parents. "It's a brilliant idea for parents to
be able to watch, especially if they have had to leave their little one
upset." A comment that was made by all the parents we spoke to, that
they appreciated being able to log on when they got to work just to
reassure themselves that their child had settle down and was now happy.
Mrs Cross also pointed out the benefits to split families, or fathers or
mothers who work away from home for parts of the week. The access to
webcams allows them to see their children on a regular basis and have an
understanding of what is going on in their childrenís daily routines.
Other parents have commented that grandparents love it too!
But could it all backfire? Evelyn Halsall, who is very positive about
the use of webcams and has even more admiration for the staff that work
in the nursery now that she can see exactly how hard they work, admits
that it made her aware that her child is not getting the valuable
one-to-one attention that he gets at home: "It made me realise that I
wouldn't want my child there full time".