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Class photos excluding SEND children

Man taking photo
School picture day – it used to be about crisp uniforms, forced grins and quick comb-throughs. But a recent news story has highlighted a rarely addressed issue: the importance of inclusion for children with complex needs. Primary school head teacher, Matt Revill, delves into this timely topic in our School Savvy blog.

Beyond the cheese: a new concern for parents

A recent BBC article sheds light on a new worry: are some children being left out of the picture altogether? 

A school photo session has parents from Aboyne Primary School fuming. Parents were offered a choice of class photos – one with all the children and another that left out children with complex needs. Yikes! 

Apparently, a photography company sent out a link with these 'alternative' options, leaving parents feeling shocked and offended.

Such was the backlash that Aberdeenshire Council swiftly apologised, clarifying the school had nothing to do with this decision and promptly removed the link to the photos that excluded some children.

More than just a smile: why inclusion matters

This incident raises the question: should anyone be left out of the picture, especially on picture day? School photos are supposed to capture a moment in time, a snapshot of your child’s year. Shouldn't that snapshot represent the entire classroom, diverse abilities and all? 

Most schools would agree that every child is a valued member of their class and deserves to be part of the group photo each year.

Taking a stand for inclusion: what parents can do

So, what can parents do? If your child’s photo day is approaching and you have concerns both for your child and others, here are a few things you can do:

  • Open communication is key: talk to your child about picture day. Discuss their comfort level and any anxieties they might have. Some children just do not like having their photo taken.
  • Embrace the opt-out: if your child isn't comfortable participating and the school offers an opt-out option, use it!
  • Advocate for inclusion: if you're concerned about the exclusion of any children from your child’s class photo, talk to the school administration. It is doubtful that any school would advocate such photographs. The BBC article also suggests working with the school to ensure photographers understand how to create a more inclusive environment for all children on picture day. 

Making school picture day a positive memory for every child

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to participate in school photos is a personal one. But picture day should be about celebrating all children, not creating award-winning portraits. 

By keeping the lines of communication open with your child and advocating for inclusion, you can help make picture day a more positive experience for everyone. It's a memory that should reflect and celebrate the diverse world in which our children grow up in. 


Matt Revill is a primary school headteacher with over 20 years experience of working in schools. He has worked in a range of settings and currently works within a multi-academy trust of 14 schools. In his free time, he enjoys reading, computing, holidaying and spending time with his family and friends. Matt has a son who is currently working his way through A-levels at college.

Matt Revill photo