PUBLISHING names of children in newspapers to celebrate their achievements has been established practice in local newspapers for generations.

Exam results, sports events, nativity plays and the like have all been recorded for posterity in newspapers. I bet there are plenty of mums and dads reading this column who have kept yellowed, dog-eared newspaper cuttings which have reported their children’s achievements going back decades.

Sadly, that innocent tradition is under threat because the dangers posed by the internet are being taken out of context.

Last week, one of our photographers turned up at St Clare’s Primary School in Middlesbrough to cover a positive story about a successful road safety initiative. But the photographer was told it is now the policy of all primary schools in Middlesbrough not to give names of children to newspapers.

A check with Middlesbrough Council confirmed that primary heads, without any consultation with the local media, had taken that decision because of fears that paedophiles could use the information to target children.

The internet can be a scary place and I understand the concerns which lie behind the decision. I also fully appreciate that it is a decision taken because it is genuinely thought to be in the interests of child safety.

But I also consider it to be a move which is disproportionate, ill-judged and very sad.

I have come across individual schools which have adopted such a policy but never every school in a borough.

There is no evidence that paedophiles are using newspapers and their associated websites to groom children.

The danger has to be kept in perspective.

The positives of reporting children’s names in the context of their achievements hugely outweigh the negatives. Publicity gives young people confidence, is a source of pride, and inspires them to aim higher.

Not so long ago, I was the governor of a primary school and the policy there was to write to parents, asking them to indicate on a form whether they had any objection to their child’s name being published. Very few objections ever came forward.

There are times – swimming galas being an example – where there is an argument for names not to be published alongside pictures, especially online. But a blanket ban is the wrong way to go.

The consequence is that The Northern Echo will regrettably not be covering primary school events in Middlesbrough until there is at least a discussion about the issue.

THANK you and apologies to those who were quick to point out the glaring error in a caption on our letters page on Thursday.

A picture of Dwain Chambers was identified as fellow drug cheat Ben Johnson.

The letters editor was last seen sprinting at record speed in the opposite direction to my office.

MY thanks also to those who sent “well done” messages following my role as former Northern Echo editor WT Stead in Titanic: The Musical at Darlington Civic Theatre.

I am now officially resting between parts.

Special thanks to Alice Potter, of Darlington Green Theatre, who wrote: “We’d like to offer Mr Stead’s chair a part in this summer’s production as its performance in Titanic was both commanding and moving.”

Why did I bother?