Ofsted inspections are enough to put fear into any self-respecting school, but beyond ensuring pupils derive the best grades, it’s less well known that inspectors can also mark a school down if it has inadequate perimeter security. While the education sector is already well focused on ensuring that the highest levels of teaching are provided, this is an ideal opportunity for us security professionals to help schools protect not only the safety of their pupils and staff, but also their Ofsted scores as well, writes John Davies.
The expectations of Ofsted inspectors generally mirror the standards of any security-conscious organisation. It’s exactly what the security industry exists to cater for. Ofsted guidelines suggest schools must demonstrate reasonable steps to ensure pupils and staff are safe on the school site. This will include monitoring visitors or volunteers, as well as having adequate security arrangements in place for the grounds and school buildings themselves.
We all know that before you even look at the technology, a good security regime needs to use common sense. This is exactly what the Ofsted inspectors are looking for and is the perfect starting point when advising a client school. Inspectors will be looking for a security regime which encompasses the entire site, from the perimeter fencing to external classroom doors and internal doors, which protect specific areas.
The nature of busy school buildings means that, as well as security, they will also be looking for locking solutions which 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 in place to enable staff to differentiate between authorised visitors and those that have not followed the required registering procedure.
Assisting the education sector
Time and Attendance systems are another area in which commercial security systems can help the education sector. Schools need to ensure pupils are in the right place at the right time. Access control, in conjunction with CCTV, is the perfect way in which to monitor for truancy. Pupils are tracked on entering and exiting the school and the times and locations are recorded and flagged up if there are any concerns.
An integrated security system can also be directly linked to the school’s central SIMS (School Information Management System), ensuring that precise records are kept and can be fully demonstrated to Ofsted inspectors with a detailed and highly accurate audit trail.
This also affords security professionals and management the ability to easily and rapidly micro-manage the security of different parts of the school. For example, identity cards can be programmed to allow/deny access to restricted areas and, when necessary, certain doors can be locked at set times of the day (such as classrooms outside teaching hours, or storage areas during evenings and weekends).
This type of solution also comes into its own if there’s 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 the intelligent use of access control.
Suitability for schools
Both local authority schools and, more recently, Academies are highly conscious of costs and RoI. Again, this is where, as an industry, we can really help the education sector match its security needs, budgets and Ofsted inspection requirements.
Modern integrated security systems offer the perfect way to mix items from different providers (and even to include older legacy items) in order to find the right cost/performance balance. This is something which our education sector clients will undoubtedly welcome.
It’s also important to ensure education clients understand how easy and straightforward it is to install much of this security technology. Wireless and IP systems are perfect for installation within a busy school environment, with minimum disruption to pupils and staff alike. Equally, these powerful systems can be added to existing doors (including glass doors and fire doors), gates and barriers, in turn further reducing disruption and costs.
Using a truly integrated system offers so much scope for the security of a school and its grounds. From automated gates at school car parks through to room booking systems, integrated lockers, vending and catering payment systems, it’s simple to monitor many different systems altogether. This affords a truly all-encompassing view of the school and the people that use and maintain it on a daily basis.
Making the right pitch
Undoubtedly, schools and colleges are already well aware of their security needs and the consequences of failing to address them adequately, but having this included within Ofsted scores is a tangible business-level concern as well.
Having said that, the security industry needs to step away from scaremongering and instead offer sensible, honest and reliable professional advice and assistance.
With the wealth of different solutions on the market, it really is possible to offer the best and most cost-effective solution for any security-related needs a school may have. At the same time, if we can help schools reach their Ofsted targets it’s a win-win situation for the school, its pupils and all of the relevant stakeholders.
John Davies is Managing Director of TDSi