Primary colour balance

October 24, 2007

A primary school head teacher is to apologise to parents after their children were lined up according to skin colour for an official photograph. (School regrets skin colour photo, 23 Oct 07)

The headteacher says it’s an “error of judgement”!


Apparently, “teachers had mistakenly taken the advice of a professional photographer.” Though this might make you wonder how professional the photographer was. Or why it even occurred to the photographer to suggest it. Artistic merit? To test the camera’s colour balance?

And as for the teachers, were they not awake? Would they not have noticed if the children should be lined up by hair colour? Or if the ugly ones were sent to the back?

A little bizarrely, one of the school governors told a London radio station, “Unfortunately for some reason a decision was made, not a good one though, to take a picture of children in a particular alignment.”

When cameras were first around you might imagine the photographer telling the teachers that for professional reasons – the image forms on the plate upside down – the children would have to stand on their heads. Or should they all have stood aligned with the constellations or equinox?

It’s to be hoped this just goes away as a silly story, and the children and school don’t suffer.


Update – 2007/10/25:

But was it for a group photo with front, middle and back lines? Or a line to pose for individual photos, so the photographer had fewer technical adjustments to make?

See the reader comments on ‘Regret’ over segregated school photograph.

Update – 2008/03/07: But then see Pupils lined up by colour for photograph, Evening Standard, 23.10.07 for a rather different story about the effect the incident had on some of the pupils.

The following is prompted by a reader comment accidently left on a different blog entry. (I can’t work out how to move it here.)

It may not have been intentional racism. It probably wasn’t even racism at all. But telling the children to do anything based on their skin colour was… insensitive and ill-judged. No?

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One Response to “Primary colour balance”

  1. Peter Manson Says:

    Insensitive and ill-judged? Yes, my only concern is that the press and the PC-brigade are seeking to make a major issue of a minor error of judgement. I read the Evening Standard artile linked, and yes it seems some children complained, but my recollections of such things from school is that some always complained no matter what method was used to line them up – children have a massive capacity for perceiving injustice (whether real or not) and protesting, but also a very short attention span for this and would all have forgotten it the next day (unless, of course, the publicity keeps it current).

    On your not telling them to do anything based on skin colour, that’s a bit too far as well, children with certain colourings do need to be more careful of sun exposure for example.


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