But schools don’t just need classroom walls to keep children safe. They need a comprehensive security infrastructure around them – most notably, secure perimeters that keep unwanted people out, but also ensure visitors, parents and students alike can access their shared community space without feeling unnecessarily segregated or unwelcome.
At a time when schools face both capacity pressures (there are more children than ever at school, but the total number of schools has actually fallen)1 and severe budgetary constraints, it can be all too easy to let perimeter replacement or upgrading programmes slip – even though safety is often the primary concern of parents.
To gauge exactly how parents, teachers and those responsible for perimeter solutions view school security, we commissioned original research for a special report. We polled 1,000 parents (a nationally representative sample) and asked them about a range of issues around school security. These were joined by the views of more than 280 teachers (including nearly 50 heads) and 75 architects.
In our special report, ‘Protecting the Future 2018’, we reveal the results of this research in full. The initial headlines make for some worrying reading.
Our data finds schools are faced with a balancing act. They are perceived as having an over-zealous attitude to security – some 30% of parents think their school’s security is ‘over the top’ (with two-thirds of parents arguing schools more closely resemble houses of correction than houses of learning). At the same time, schools seem to not be doing enough.
We find 38% of teachers and 23% of parents say their school has not been sensibly designed to keep staff and pupils safe and secure. More concerning than this, we find current perimeter solutions are simply not up to scratch – both in terms of preventing kids getting out and discouraging unwanted/unauthorised people getting in. In addition, nearly a quarter (24%) of parents say children leave the school site either sometimes or often (a fifth do so through gaps in the fence, while nearly two-fifths simply climb over it), while 27% say their school sometimes, often, or very often experiences unauthorised people getting in and doing harm.
These events happen despite 80% of teachers saying their boundary fences and gates have been inspected within the last five years. The only conclusion this leads to is that inspectors are missing key design flaws.
With schools needing to keep more students present on site than ever before, these observed weaknesses in current school perimeters will surely be a worry to parents and teachers alike. We find, for example, that many schools can still be accessed via public footpaths, while some architects admit that they don’t always know about key security standards.
If there’s one positive that can be taken from these findings, it’s that with appropriate planning and execution, most – if not all these problems – are not insurmountable. The first thing to do is simply acknowledge that problems exist.