Security and Safety

In recent years there have been tragic incidences of fatal attacks upon students, some on school sites. These have led in part to calls for improved school security such as ‘airport style’ scanners to seek out knives. However, most of the high profile cases you will recall have actually taken place outside schools, albeit involving students. This is not to diminish the risk to young people in schools and the right school for your child must clearly have security as a priority. However, neither should parents overreact to fears about school safety. It is also worth pointing out that no school, no matter how successful they are, is completely free from threat. A balance must be struck between security and the need for schools to be buildings which welcome their local community. What is important is how schools identify security risks and implement consistent and common sense approaches to counter them.

  • If a school is regularly permanently excluding students for carrying knives or other weapons, then this is a cause for concern; it indicates that there is a culture of carrying weapons at the school, and probably not a school you would choose for your child.
  • A school should have a clear policy on sanctions to be taken if a child is found carrying a weapon – if this policy seems inadequate or vague, then this is a cause for concern.
  • It is a cause for concern if there is a gang culture at a school, even though gang related incidents usually take place out of the school arena. Schools where there are gangs are likely to have an intake from clearly defined geographical areas. If a school takes the majority of its students from two or three specific areas, for example, estates, then gangs that are formed on the streets can come into the school. If a school has only a few large primary feeder schools, then it might be that alliances established at primary school are perpetuated in secondary and exacerbated as children grow older.
  • Most schools have ample security to help protect students from strangers entering their site. There should be a system to help ensure strangers do not access the site, for example, a school gate that requires a code for entry. Entrances for pupils should be open and locked up at clearly designated times.
  • At the reception, a signing in and badge process should be in place. All staff should wear security labels of some kind.
  • There should be systems for monitoring the whole school building, for example, security cameras.
  • You may find that some schools employ guards. This is potentially a cause for concern. You will need to ask why this unusual level is security is necessary.
  • A secure school should maintain its boundaries well. Holes in fences should be constantly repaired; trees and shrubs should be regularly cut back.
  • There should be a system of entering and exiting which is clear to the students and which they abide by. For example, if there is an entrance for staff only, students should not be seen sneaking in that way.
  • A secure school should work collaboratively with its neighbours. If, for example, it shares facilities with a neighbouring leisure centre, the entrances to the two venues should be clearly separate, with secure systems of entry.
  • A secure school has a good caretaker. She is diligent, knows her school and where the weakest links are, and maintains security systems.
  • A secure school is careful about who uses the building apart from its students. All other site use is by formal arrangement. Its security is not so lax that youths from other schools play football on its grounds, out of hours without permission.
  • A secure school has visible staff at the school gates, whenever students are officially entering and exiting.
  • Some schools have a school based police officer. This can be a successful system if the officer is capable and has the capacity to support the school.

Further Information

LEA

The LEA admissions booklet should give you information about catchment areas and this will help you to determine which are the primary feeder schools.

Open Evenings/Visit

Ask to speak to the caretaker. Ask her how she deals with security issues at the school. Ask a senior teacher what the school’s main primary feeders are. Make sure you visit the school in the day time. At reception you should be asked to sign in and out, and given some form of visitor identification.  Make an informal visit. Go and walk round the school out of hours; are there ‘rogue’ youths in the playgrounds, or are there organised groups using the facilities? Find out when school starts and finishes. Walk round the school and see if staff are visible. See if the boundaries of the site are maintained, or are there students, for example, climbing through holes in fences.

Summary




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