Mother left in tears after daughter with complex needs 'erased' from school photo

29 March 2024, 10:15 | Updated: 29 March 2024, 11:20

Mother Natalie Pinnell
Mother Natalie Pinnell. Picture: Facebook

By Kit Heren

A mother whose child with complex needs was 'erased' from a version of her school photograph said the incident brings her to tears.

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Furious parents at Aboyne Primary School in Scotland complained after being sent a link from a photography company offering them the choice of alternative school photos.

Natalie Pinnell’s daughter Erin was included in one class photo and excluded from the other - the photography firm Tempest offered both versions of the photo for sale.

Tempest also took the same approach with two additional support needs pupils in another class.

Ms Pinnell told LBC's Matthew Wright: "It was a shocking event - I got two emails from my school class photos, it happens annually, and for my youngest there was one link to my class photo, for my eldest there were two links - in one of them she was included and in one of them she wasn’t.

Matthew Wright speaks to a mother whose complex needs daughter was 'erased' from a school photo

"At the time, I wanted to assume good intent and was trying to be curious, like ‘what are the differences, spot the difference, what’s going on this photo?’

"And I couldn’t find any other reason, so I went to the school, who were incredible, they went straight to the photography company to find out what had happened."

She said the company gave parents "the option of whether or not to erase these children from the photos."

Ms Pinnell added that the move "keeps shocking" her. "I found out about it on Monday and everyday I’m still hitting new levels of shock," she added.

"It just keeps coming in waves, I actually can’t believe they erased these children from their class photo."

Ms Pinnell said that the incident has meant having a difficult conversation with Erin's sister "to tell her what’s going on because it is being discussed at school".

She added that despite the upsetting incident, the support from the school and the local community "has been phenomenal".

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Parents at Aboyne Primary complained about the incident.
Parents at Aboyne Primary complained about the incident. Picture: Google Street View

The local council said the the decision was not taken by the school and the link to the photos was immediately removed.

Tempest Photography, one of the biggest school photography firms, said in a statement it was investigating the matter, adding that it had spoken to the photographer involved and the school.

The firm said: “We are currently investigating the situation with the school, and have no further comment.”

Ms Quinnell wrote in a Facebook post earlier: “This week, a photography company erased my child from a school class photo.

“Why? Was she not aesthetically pleasing enough?

“To say I am disgusted, devastated and absolutely heartbroken is am understatement.”

Aberdeenshire Council said in a statement: "We are aware that following Aboyne Primary School’s recent school class photographs, links to purchase the pictures included images with and without complex needs provision pupils.

“Whilst this was not a decision taken by the school, we absolutely appreciate the distress and hurt this has caused some parents and carers and we are sincerely sorry.

"The issue has been taken up with the photography company directly as this is totally unacceptable."

The council added: "Aboyne is an inclusive school and every single child should be included, engaged and involved in their learning and school experiences."

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservative MSP, said of the incident: “There are big questions for the company arranging and taking these photos. This is one of the bigger studios working with Scottish schools today, so it’s imperative to find whether this is an isolated incident and ensure it never happens again.”