School security: safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children

As schools, colleges and universities are opening their doors to cohorts of students and pupils in readiness for the new 2018 academic year, we thought that this may be a good opportunity to remind school governors of their duties in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

It is a statutory requirement (under section 175 of the Education Act 2002) that individuals who work in the education sector have a responsibility to create and maintain an environment in which children feel safe to learn, play, and grow. This applies to governing bodies, Designated Safeguarding Officers (DSOs) and staff.

From a security and safety management perspective, this responsibility imposes an obligation to address two main types of threats – external and internal threats.

External threats

As a minimum requirement, you must have in place thorough security procedures and systems to ensure that no person without proper authority is able to enter into its territory.

Sadly, the number of violations and crimes committed by outsiders at school premises has risen dramatically over the last couple of years. Did you know, for example, that the number of recorded child abduction offences in England and Wales increased in the last 5 years from 513 (2012/2013) to 1189 (2017/2018) (source: The Statistics Portal) and a considerable number of these were committed on or near school premises.

In addition to physical access, you must also implement adequate IT security measures (both hardware and software) to prevent anybody accessing your systems and confidential information or using that information to contact your students. This is particularly important as part of your duty to protect your students and pupils against radicalization or grooming threats both on- and offline.

To address the various external threats, you should consider implementing the following steps:

  • Transforming your main entrance into a secured vestibule with gates and railing to prevent strangers from entering the premises.

  • Safety protocols for verification of credentials of visitors.

  • Installing a smart CCTV system with the software algorithm and “deep learning” that will send you an advance notification on detecting a “suspicious activity”.

  • Access control to restricted areas (server rooms, physical data rooms, etc.).

Internal threats

Internal threats may be more difficult to detect not least because many children who suffer from abuse are too scared to speak out or may perceive their mistreatment as “normal”. Therefore, your responsibility is to identify any students who are at risk of harm or may be vulnerable to any other form of abuse, and take appropriate actions.

Internal threats include things like bullying, peer-on-peer abuse and abuse from staff, and can take many forms, such as acts of violence or sexual assault. Your role is to ensure that you have procedures and protocols in place to minimise the risk of any of such threats, including, by taking the following steps:

  • You must verify the identity of anyone you hire via Barring Service Check (DBS) to ensure that they do not pose any risk to your students.

  • Your staff should regularly renew their safeguarding training, especially if legislation changes (which it tends to do every 3-5 years).

  • Installation of CCTV is also a good idea to deter any wrongdoer and also (should an incident occur) to shed light on what has happened.

We hope that this article has provided you with a useful summary of the obligations in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

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