A national parent-teacher group says some schools are banning video records of sports days, even though this could mean parents losing out on a record of their children's early years. Education Reporter HAYDN LEWIS asked head teachers in York for their views.

THE sight of dozens of excited youngsters racing towards the finish line and trying desperately not to let an egg wobble off a spoon is a fond memory from many a childhood sports day.

But it could all be a thing of the past if some parents get their way.

As children across York and North Yorkshire get ready for their annual school sports day, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the video recording of their children at the event.

According to the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA), some schools in the UK have chosen to ban the videoing of sports day, but often such a ban causes upset and strained relationships between parents and teachers.

Now a new dimension has been added - mobile phone videoing. A growing number of parents and relations have this new technology which they, understandably, want to use.

The problem has arisen because video cameras and mobile phones are indiscriminate and children's privacy and protection cannot be guaranteed.

We spoke to head teachers at two York primary schools, Scarcroft and Westfield, to get their take on the issue.

Scarcroft Primary is one of a host of schools looking to hold their sports day before the end of term in a few weeks' time.

The school is holding its annual event on July 15 on the fields at nearby Millthorpe Secondary School.

This year they will have a host of traditional games, including a sack race for the older children and a supermarket dash, with the reception class youngsters having to gather plastic fruit and veg.

Scarcroft head Anna Cornhill said they had consulted parents in the past about filming at such events.

She said: "Our parents have always felt that it would be a great sadness for society as a whole if they couldn't go to their own child's event and make a permanent record of the day.

"These are closed events which only parents and family attend, and although obviously it is impossible to know everyone who comes along, strangers stand out immediately.

"You just have to hope and trust that because you are dealing with family members' equipment, whether it be videos or photo phones, is not going to be misused."

Mark Barnett, head teacher at Westfield Primary, said: "This seems to me like a prime example of going from the sublime to the ridiculous - if schools had a complete block on everything where there could be a perceived risk, schools and institutions couldn't exist.

"If parents are photographing their own children in a controlled environment I feel that that's the most sensible way to go, otherwise schools would be frightened of putting on a concert or sports day."

The NCPTA believes it is important for schools to discuss the issue with parents, and to be confident that all parents are happy for their children to be filmed knowing the images may be sent, in the case of mobile phones, anywhere in the world.

"Although the issue of videoing school sports day can be a complex one, the prime concern is always the safety of the children filmed," said David Butler, NCPTA's chief executive.

"Each school needs to find a balance between common sense and caution, while respecting the wishes of parents and accepting that some parents do not want their children filmed."

One approach adopted by schools is to develop a whole school policy written in consultation with parents, teachers and governors which is then adopted and incorporated into the school prospectus and any Home School Agreement operated by the school.

"It is important that parents know their school's policy or position statement on parental videoing of events," said Mr Butler.

"Good practice has been adopted in many schools with the sports day and other events being videoed by the school or Parent Teacher Association (PTA). This way what images are filmed is more controlled and the school can hold a master copy and, with the prior permission of parents, sell copies at cost."

Updated: 10:52 Wednesday, July 06, 2005