Author: Francesca Meyrick
The need for security in schools is nothing new, unfortunately, they can be a prime target for criminals looking to steal property or (even more worrying) to target the children and young people themselves.
Traditionally the security regime has had a straightforward mission, to protect people and property from intruders – which generally means restricting access to anyone who isn’t a pupil, staff or parent/guardian in the school environment.
However, modern integrated security systems are offering a much broader range of uses for this technology which is making schools safer and more efficient as well.
Security systems are still primarily installed to guard pupils, staff, and the school facilities themselves. In the past the physical threats were generally fairly minor, petty criminals breaking in or perhaps opportunistic theft and vandalism. Sadly, in an age of armed crime, the dangers have increased.
This is especially evident in the US, which continues to suffer gun attacks (sometimes from armed pupils themselves) but knife crime is a big problem in many parts of the world (including the UK), which can have tragic consequences.
A key part of the arsenal of protection of people in schools is the lockdown facility. Certainly, TDSi has been offering this function for many years as it brings together all the elements of a security network and allows the school to take control of the movement of not only potential assailants but also pupils and staff.
Headteachers or security officers in schools can lock down an entire campus where there is an incident and direct egress away from trouble spots. This works equally well if there is a fire or other dangerous situations that require the safe movement and evacuation of people.
With the advent of truly integrated security systems, it didn’t take long to realise that these powerful networks could be used for other purposes as well. After all, the investments made on security should be able to offer other benefits to offset the installation and running costs of this essential purchase.
TDSi saw the benefits of working with other software providers in the school environment early on and over the last 10 years or so we have been working closely with a number of companies to achieve broader goals – such as working with Capita, which provides School Information Management Systems (SIMS) that track pupil attendance in schools.
Whilst the granular details of software integration are best left to engineers, the basic approach is actually very straightforward. If pupils must use their card/token/credentials to enter and leave the school facilities, then this information can be shared with the SIMS and all the other services linked to it.
This means the school automatically registers attendance to demonstrate that pupils are actually present in classes (which is even more important when reports need to be shared with the Local Education Authority or Social Services for instance). On a commercial side, many schools also have a ‘Pupil Premium’ and need to prove attendance to justify the correct funding.
From a safety point of view, beyond protecting children on the premises, it also means reports can be shared with parents/guardians as to when they arrive and leave the school. For instance, the access control system can alert the SIMS that a pupil has (or hasn’t) registered in the morning and send a corresponding message/SMS/email to either give the parent/guardian peace of mind or flag up a potential problem.
Another aspect that more indirectly adds to the safety and security of pupils is integrating access control systems with vending/catering purchases. If an access card/token can prove identity it can also be used in the place of cash to allow the purchase of food or other items that are sold within the school campus.
This approach has proven to be very successful in many schools as it does away with children having to carry money, with the risk of theft or bullying to extract it (or indeed spending it themselves unmonitored outside school!). It also means that a child should never have to be without funds should they need them. This is equally the case when it comes to pupils supported by their local authority, they always have access to the funds when needed, without the need to source physical cash.
Modern integrated security systems are perfect for helping complex school environments to better serve and protect the people who use them. With a level of surveillance that ensures the facility is safe, it’s not a big step to use it to automate these additional services/roles.
Being automatic and highly reliable (and because of the level of integration) it’s very easy to keep adding new functions to these networks as they become available. Plus, the components of these systems have become highly affordable, easy to integrate, and easy to operate as part of the overall SIMS.
Undoubtedly schools will continue to face new threats and challenges, but integrated systems are making it easier to tackle these with a level of assurance that gives everyone greater peace of mind.