Schools Secure for Summer

What are the latest trends and developments in security for schools?
To teach and to learn effectively, staff and pupils must feel safe and secure. Currently this responsibility is shared between the local authority (in state schools,) governing body and the head teacher, often with direct interaction encouraged with parents.

Ofsted inspections can now mark a school down if it has inadequate measures to provide for the safety of pupils, staff and visitors. And with 75% of crime in schools being recorded as opportunistic, security is a matter that needs to be managed.

Underlying security issues is that no one wants to have schools that have a fortress feel, with high walls and fences, locks and bars. While it may make a building secure, it is not child friendly, nor does it make for a pleasant place to work.

And increasingly, it’s required to create security systems that accommodate the extended schools programme. Here, educational premises often operate on a much more ‘open’ nature with either full public and community access or permitted group access increasingly required in term time or school holidays.

How is this achieved?
Creating a safe and secure school environment requires significant planning and key features need to be designed into the overall security architecture, and this is right from the perimeter systems through to internal classroom security features.

There is no benefit to installing an impressive security fence and gates at the front of the school, if it is possible for intruders to access the grounds via an unprotected entry point elsewhere on the site.

The physical security that surrounds a school site needs to complement school building security. Not only in terms of intruder alarm systems, but also interfaced with intelligent access control solutions across the entire campus, incorporating CCTV smart technologies where required.

By example; generally speaking, most schools (and nurseries) will require segregated access to the main reception from the car park, at which point all visitors are vetted and their reason for wanting to gain entry qualified prior to being granted access to the site.

Door entry and access control solutions throughout the school can then be worked out to ensure the upmost security for the building, and ease of use to monitor and operate for the budget, time and resource stretched facilities or estate management.

Increasingly teaching staff are also turning towards latest technologies such as body worn camera devices to resolve problems such as ‘background disorder’ in classrooms. Such technology has to be used carefully, and stored safely to ensure access is only given to authorized personnel.

What increased risks do the school holidays – and therefore less populated schools – pose to the school premises?
With the increased smart technology kept on site for learning purposes, schools become a prime target for break-ins and vandalism during the holidays.

An effective security procedure can help limit the chances of these incidents happening. Really, all buildings should have such a procedure in place and they don’t necessarily have to be costly upgrades.

  • Going right back to basics, making sure all windows, doors and shutters are closed and locked should be the final check, before securing and alarming the building for the holidays.
  • If the building is going to be closed for the whole of the holiday period then it is essential security systems such as alarms and security lights are maintained to be in operational working order.
  • Fences and gates should be checked regularly to prevent unauthorised access to the site. If a site has lockable gates then these should be locked for the duration of the holidays.
  • Ensure contact details for key holders are up to date. These are often the first point of contact if an incident occurs and out of date contact details can result in unnecessary response delays and extra costs.

If school building and facilities are used during school holidays, then audit control, smart CCTV and visual verification systems can provide necessary peace of mind that only authorised access is allowed, which can be checked on compatible mobile technology at any time.

What examples of poor/excellent security offerings have you seen at schools in recent years?
Amthal Fire & Security operates in partnership with schools across the UK, working from site survey and initial design concepts through installation and maintenance of security works programmes to operate around lessons, budget, time and resource.

Security offerings entail maintenance programmes to facilitate existing intruder alarms like at Lancasterian Primary School, or in learning communities to control access and integrate CCTV at The Orion Primary School.

Often it is to complete full site surveys to upgrade fire and security systems, like Amthal achieved at Verulum School.

The Malborough Science Academy embraces the Government’s extended schools programme and actively encourages activity for the wider local community, so our specification for fire and security integrated into existing platforms for ease of use and continued presentation of a vibrant, happy and nurturing learning environment.

Most recently, Amthal has worked with the prestigious St Albans School, standing as a leading and much celebrated independent boys’ school and centre of educational excellence.

The school is undergoing a significant programme of works to enhance its facilities for its students, which all has to be achieved (including fire and security upgrades) without compromising on the historic ambience of the school. Like our work at St Margaret’s school, it was our responsibility to make sure it was cared for at every level.

Each of these examples show the significance Amthal places as being considered part of a site team when working in educational environments, to understand bespoke requirements.

This approach proved essential at Garston Manor School, a specialist school for autism, learning difficulties and speech and language.

Says Caroline Caisley, School Business Manager at Garston Manor School: “The school firmly believes in creating an environment whereby all students have the right to access learning at a level and setting appropriate to their needs that will enable them to enjoy and achieve. To ensure this can occur, we must establish an atmosphere of trust, security and mutual respect.

“Security in this respect is an absolute priority for the school, right from the perimeter and the site boundaries through to all internal areas. Amthal understood this and developed a works programme to maintain all our fire and security systems. We have been very impressed with their sensitivity to the school’s aims and vision and care taken in looking after our site.”

What should schools look for in security providers?

  1. Extensive experience in working in educational facilities is integral, alongside a clear understanding of the need for sensitivity and confidentiality.
  2. Focus on working with providers who have the necessary SSAIC and UKAS accreditation, which are recognised by Police Forces and insurance companies.
  3. All teams operating on a school site must be DBS checked and security vetted by Police
  4. Any risk assessment surveys and installations should be carried out in accordance with European Standards and other applicable regulations.
  5. Industry installs should be completed to EN 50131, which covers intruder alarm high security and wireless systems.
  6. Security providers must comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) implications for public access buildings.
  7. Specifically, for infant and junior schools and for play areas it is important to look for RoSPA approved and BS EN 1176 compliant products, which have been tested for their ability to provide a safe fencing or gate solution, reducing the risk of puncture wounds or entrapment of limbs.

In the interest of efficiency and cost effectiveness, schools may prefer to work with security providers who can be involved from the initial design process through installation to project completion.

Schools should look for security providers willing to create a dedicated maintenance plan that operates around school learning timetables to minimise disruption and ensure systems installed continue to operate to maximum capacity for the safety of staff, pupils and visitors, together with the wider community.

Extract from Education Executive: June / July 2019