In most schools and colleges, security involves protecting property (including personal property) against theft, vandalism or arson. In some establishments - primary schools in particular - it also involves protecting children from assault by an intruder.
Security is a health and safety issue. Employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their premises are safe. A risk assessment of the school or college site should be carried out to determine the best methods to control security risks, including when the building is closed. Those findings should be recorded.
Security strategies should be reviewed regularly - annually at the very least. Each educational establishment is different. Many have independent, isolated or temporary buildings, multiple entrances, poor fencing and public access out of hours. Therefore, the closing-down procedure is a vital part of the security arrangements of each school and college.
Intrusion into premises is of great concern as it can result in burglary, arson and vandalism. In addressing security concerns, schools and colleges should consider the premises from the criminal's viewpoint: the "think thief" approach. They should also make use of expert help which may be available from the police, crime prevention officer, local authority experts, external consultants or insurers.
Checklist of things to consider when assessing security of property
Valuable equipment: computers should be kept away from windows and out of view. Ideally, they should be located on upper floors. If this is not possible, they should not be placed in an area that has an exterior wall; if it has, there should be no windows or doors to that wall. Some schools and colleges have bought blinds for windows in which computers are stored but, if only the computer room has blinds, this may advertise the presence of computers. Consider moving valuable items off site.
Property marking: expensive items should be marked with the name and postcode of the educational establishment. This will make them less marketable. The fact that property is security marked should be advertised conspicuously around the premises.
Flammable or loose materials, rubbish and waste: if such materials are left outside buildings, they can be used for arson or vandalism. Some items may be used to break into the premises. Wheelie bins and waste containers should be located at least eight metres from buildings and be secured by padlocks and chains to an immovable object.
Windows and external doors: these should be secured.
Internal doors: these must be closed to prevent the spread of fire.
Fire and intruder alarm systems: these must be correctly set.
External lighting: ensure that it is working correctly.
Contractors on site: building work often takes place during the summer holidays, which will undoubtedly affect the security arrangements. Contractors' equipment on site can attract thieves. Access to upper floors can be gained by scaffolding. Skips are sometimes placed near buildings. Procedures need to be in place to restrict access only to those areas where it is required.
Events like the one in Dunblane have increased security concerns about potential intruders. It is unacceptable to expose students to unnecessary risk, but it is not desirable to turn schools and colleges into high-security 'prison-like' buildings either. A common approach is the creation of a 'safe haven' in the building where staff and students can retreat to, and into which an intruder cannot gain access.
In general, many schools prevent access from outside and have a controlled 'one access only' system. While this may be workable in smaller schools, it cannot always be achievable on larger, more complex sites like colleges.
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.