Top Marks In Security

Security is essential for any learning environment.

Now it is under greater scrutiny as Ofsted inspections can mark a school down if it has inadequate measures to provide for the safety of pupils, staff and visitors.

Here, Jamie Allam, Commercial Director at Amthal Fire and Security looks at what this means in light of today’s concerns in schools and the duty of care requirements, showing how to achieve top marks in security as well as the educational progammes provided, all within restricted budgets.

On a basic level, Ofsted inspectors require a school to demonstrate it takes reasonable steps to ensure pupils are safe on the school site. This will include monitoring visitors or volunteers as well as having adequate security arrangements for the teachers alongside the grounds and school buildings.

Trust, Security & Mutual Respect
Ofsted inspectors will be looking to see that school security meets the basic criteria to protect pupils, staff and the premises. And this is perhaps an obvious priority for any school.

As Caroline Caisley, School Business Manager at Garston Manor School comments: “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.”

Like other criteria, inspectors will be looking for a security regime, which encompasses all aspects of the school, the entire site, from the perimeter fencing to external classroom doors and internal doors, which protect specific areas.

At the same time, whilst locks need to be secure by default, they also need to open automatically during the operation of the fire alarm system or a loss of electrical power, ensuring secured areas don’t inadvertently become a hazard.

As well as secure access for pupils and staff, Ofsted inspectors will also expect to see an identity badge system to be in place to enable staff to differentiate between authorised visitors and those that have not followed the required registering procedure.

Keeping An Eye
A good security system will not only prevent intruders entering the school facilities, it will also ensure pupils are in the right place at the right time.

Access control, in conjunction with CCTV, is the perfect way to monitor for truancy – ensuring pupils are tracked entering and exiting the school and the times and locations are recorded and flagged up if there are any concerns.

Body Cameras
A recent TES survey revealed that two-thirds of teachers would feel safer in the classroom if they were wearing a body camera. The results come amid concern among teachers about the levels of violence they face in their jobs.

According to the ATL teaching union, four out of 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in recent years. The proportion is even higher among teaching assistants.

Taking this a step further, some schools are now even trialling the use of body cameras to resolve problems such as ‘background disorder in classrooms.’

This has to be carried out carefully, balancing the assurance to pupils, parents, staff and visitors, that filming is only carried out ‘when legitimate, proportionate and necessary.’

It is according to educational security facilities, ‘only incident specific’ where there is a perceived threat to a member of staff or pupil. It’s not like a surveillance camera. Anymore, and rulings may even go against the school in use of intrusive technology.

Such devices as CCTV and body cameras, used correctly, can ensure that precise records are kept and can be fully demonstrated to Ofsted inspectors with a detailed and highly accurate audit trail.

The ability to easily and rapidly micro-manage the security of different parts of the school is a further advantage. For example, identity cards can be programmed to allow/deny access to restricted areas and when necessary certain doors can be locked at certain times of the day (such as classrooms outside teaching hours, or storage areas during evenings and weekends).

Finally, this also comes into its own if there is an emergency, such as a fire or criminal attack on people or the premises. The security team can immediately instigate a lockdown procedure or assist an evacuation by intelligent use of access control.

Balancing Priorities
Despite constant Government assurances on school funding, there is no assurance on how and when it will be received. And with this in mind, undoubtedly school authorities will be restricted on investment in anything less than critical.

This does not mean that security enhancements cannot occur – for any integrated system, the nature of the components involved often means it is completely possible and practical to mix items from different providers (and even to include older legacy items) to find the right cost / performance balance.

The best way to achieve the right results to be sure its security meets the necessary standards for a modern environment and satisfy the stringent Ofsted inspections is to work with a security installer that understands the school environment.

A security expert will find the perfect solution in line with budgetary and protection needs, ensuring peace of mind for a school’s management team, including Local Authorities, teachers, Governors, as well as the pupils and parents.

As David Williamson, Account Manager at Amthal explains, following work at Garston Manor and Orion Primary School:
“Our role, following the site survey, is to support the site management team and continue to look after the fire and security systems, eliminating any concerns and planning works necessary around learning timetables. This way, staff can commit to their integral role in each child’s life, and students can learn in a safe and secure school environment, all without affecting every day operations or the aesthetics of an educational facility.”

In summary, with school safety concerns intensifying, and the additional pressures of being part of any Ofsted inspection, those responsible for school buildings all have roles to play in the implementation of an effective, round the clock, school security strategy.

However, with the financial climate in the education sector remaining uncertain, it continues to create some very different challenges to security and protection systems for staff, pupils and visitors.

Such solutions are available to provide the right security at the right cost but it will require a fresh approach, including careful integration of modern technologies right from design and installation, through to ongoing maintenance and support to achieve top marks.