Principal of North Cambridge Academy Publicly Identifies Pupils Potentially at Risk of Exclusion

Saturday, June 11th, 2016. 12:07pm

Martin Campbell, the Principal of North Cambridge Academy, has publicly identified a number of the school’s pupils as: “potentially children who will end up in permanent exclusion”.

Mr Campbell made his comments at a public meeting of Cambridge City Council’s North Area Committee on the 9th of June 2016 in front of the area’s city and county councillors in a hall full of members of the public. A number of police officers and many council staff were present.

The pupils were identified by their first names and images of them were shown. The meeting had, as part of its agenda, a presentation of a publicly funded film made by young people. Presumably the intent was to show councillors how funds they had allocated had been spent and to show local residents and businesses how their taxes had been used.

As soon as I heard Mr Campbell’s comments I thought they were inappropriate. I don’t think schools should be publicly naming students in connection with their concerns about permanent exclusion.

Mr Campbell may have been embarrassed as his pupils who had benefited from the public funded project had not turned up despite having been invited to the event, and taxis (presumably funded by public money) having been sent to collect them.

I have previously expressed concern about a similar occurrence where pupils who had left mainstream education were identified in profiles on the website of the “Red Balloon Learner Centre”, in relation to that I have previously written:

I was concerned that by publicising case studies about identifiable children the decision of if to publicise the fact they attended the centre was not being left for individuals themselves to make when they reached an age, and ability, to make that choice for themselves.

Beth McCabe of Cambridge Community Arts was one of those in the public seating watching the film; she appeared agitated and uncomfortable following the principal’s comments and tried to speak to me, but couldn’t due to the meeting being in progress.

Mr Campbell approached me as I left the meeting and, having realised he’d said something he shouldn’t, expressed concern about the reporting of his comments overshadowing the positive aspects of the film.

I let Mr Campbell know who I am (I think he took a note) and invited him to put any concerns he had about reporting on the meeting to me in writing. At the time of writing, Saturday afternoon after a Thursday evening meeting, I’ve not received anything. I will provide updates in the comments if I do. I suggested Mr Campbell let the chair know of any concerns, so they could be relayed to all present. I checked with the meeting chair, Mike Todd-Jones and he told me no such representation was made.

Deciding what, if anything, to publish from the meeting has been a difficult decision. Not reporting anything would be the best way to ensure the privacy of the pupils involved, but many people can’t attend North Area Committee meetings and value the publication of videos, tweets and articles. Reporting on Mr Campbell’s remarks is one way he can perhaps be persuaded to be more careful about what he says about specific identified pupils in public in the future.

As far as I can see the film isn’t currently published online anywhere (if it was then my publication of Mr Campbell’s remarks, and linking them to it, would enable the identification of the pupils). I have decided to publish my footage of the meeting with the names and images of the pupils removed, this footage is embedded into this article. My redactions have unfortunately also removed images of some of the expensive looking video equipment being used, including what looked like a rather fancy camera stabilizer mount.

Some people, including other pupils in the school, may already know the identity of those pupils involved in the film. My publication of the video, and this article, may enable more of these people to link Mr Campbell’s remarks to the individuals. Overall I think the benefit in reporting the newsworthy occurrence, outweighs any negative impact. The person who looks worst here is Martin Campbell, the Principal of North Cambridge Academy, not his pupils, and the public need to hold him to account for his actions and nudge him in the right direction when he gets things wrong.

Rewarding Poor Behaviour?

The escapade also raises the question of rewards for poor behaviour. Why is it those at risk of exclusion get the benefit of the public money, the chance to work with artists and video producers and get an invite from councillors to the area committee? I’ve written before about: “Rewards for Anti-Social Behaviour in Cambridge“.

What do those pupils who work hard, get themselves where they need to be on time, and generally behave think about councillors funding opportunities for those who risk exclusion?

Perhaps the school could have run a call for ideas, with the winners being given the opportunity to work with the film-makers? Those at risk of exclusion have, as the film shows, staff working with them, who could have given them extra help with their submission. If there were say three or five opportunities to make a film then maybe one could have been reserved for those at risk of exclusion, with the principal explaining the justification perhaps on the basis of greatest likely impact.

Grant Funding of the Film

It’s not obvious which grant funded the film but it may be a part of a grant of £15,000 to North Cambridge Academy public art with Kettle’s Yard (Kettle’s Yard is part of Cambridge University) approved by Executive Councillor Carina O’Reilly in October 2015, the project included an aim to:

create and develop opportunities for students and the wider community to access and celebrate culture within their locality

Public Access to North Cambridge Academy Facilities

I used the opportunity to ask questions of the principal to ask about public access to facilities at the academy given so many have been publicly funded, some with conditions attached requiring public access.

Facilities include tennis courts, a cycling track, a sunken trampoline & foam pit. The public access should be advertised by both the council who awarded the grants and the school.

The principal gave an assurance that there would be better advertisement of the publicly accessible facilities once the redevelopment of the front of the school has been carried out.

One comment/update on “Principal of North Cambridge Academy Publicly Identifies Pupils Potentially at Risk of Exclusion

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve written to the Information Commissioner to let them know what happened. I wrote:

    Perhaps as the pupils surnames were not revealed, and it won’t be easy for employers or educational institutions researching applicants to connect the comments to individuals, the Information Commissioner might not consider this to be very serious. A nudge from the Commissioner to urge greater care when considering releasing pupils’ personal information in public might help prevent a worse occurrence in the future.

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