Anyone working in schools will agree that safeguarding children is their most important job. Keeping young people safe from harm both inside and outside of school is a responsibility shared by all adults employed in a school or other educational setting.
Although the moral incentive is enough, schools also have very strict legal requirements placed upon them to ensure the safety of children. Failure of safeguarding procedures can lead to serious consequences, from failed OFSTED inspections to job losses, or even prosecutions.
Here we will look at ways that schools can keep children safe from physical danger whilst using the school site.
Safeguarding School Access
School safeguarding inspections will cover access to the site itself. It is the responsibility of the school to ensure that the school site is secure, to protect the children and staff who use it. Protecting the site from unauthorised visitors can be a difficult challenge, considering the hustle and bustle of school drop off and pick up times.
Manning entrances throughout the day isn’t a feasible solution. This is where automatic entry systems can save time and money, as well as giving extra security to the premises and its users.
Securing School Perimeters
School perimeters are important because they are often placed in the heart of local communities. While this is great for their place as community hubs, it does present challenges for safeguarding pupils.
The school site should have a clear boundary, secured at minimum by a fence and security gate. To allow staff to enter the premises, access control could be included. Options include fobs, cards and mobile phone apps.
Vehicle Access for Schools
Parking in schools is often difficult just for staff and visitors. Once you add parents dropping off and collecting children, as well as school buses, it is easy to see how these areas can become choke points for traffic flow, as well as increasing danger to pedestrians.
Parking barriers help to alleviate this problem. Combined with access fobs or key cards, they ensure that only authorised site users can enter parking areas. This can prevent car parks becoming overwhelmed at peak times. Not only do they keep the area free of excessive traffic, they are a great solution for securing the car park outside of school hours.
Safeguarding School Entrances
Even with a secure perimeter, school entrances must still have effective precautions in place to prevent unauthorised access. Larger school buildings can have multiple entrances, and staffing each one throughout the day is not usually feasible.
In most schools that DT Services work with, the main entrances use automatic doors to control access to the building. These doors are usually operated by a sensor, which will detect the approach of a pedestrian and open for them. A foyer / lobby area will allow visitors to speak to reception, but a second set of automatic doors prevents them from accessing the main building. The second doors are protected by access control, so that staff can operate them using their ID cards or fobs.
For doors around the school site, access control can prevent them from being used by unauthorised site visitors, should anyone make it onto the school grounds. These doors often serve a dual function as emergency exits, and will help evacuate the building in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.
We’ll take a look at how these doors, as well as other solutions, can promote a safer school environment in the event of fires: particularly for the prevention, slowing, and if necessary evacuation of the building.
Fire Safety Obligations for Schools
Let’s be honest, schools sites can present a multitude of risks to their users. They are large buildings, sometimes with over 1,000 young people in them of various ages, and some with extra learning or physical needs. This alone presents many logistical challenges for a school to overcome, particularly if a full site evacuation needs to take place.
Correct fire safety ensures that:
- the risk of fire is reduced
- fire can be detected and alarms are sounded
- staff and pupils are aware of procedures in the event of a fire.
Schools must appoint a responsible person to oversee fire safety on the premises. This would usually be the headteacher who signs off on fire procedures, but they may appoint a site manager to develop and implement the fire safety protocols in the school.
All schools are subject to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It is imperative that schools follow all the requirements it contains. First and foremost, it ensures the safety of children and staff, as well as the building itself and school property. Failure to comply could have serious consequences.
Furthermore, schools can face large fines, such a school in Wakefield which was fined £10,000 for failing to comply with fire regulations, with a further fine of £10,000 also given to the school’s fire assessor. At a time when school budgets face significant pressure from lower per-pupil-funding and huge increases to energy costs, these fines would cause significant hardship to schools.
You can help to protect your school and remain compliant by having appropriate and well-maintained fire doors, which allow easy evacuation, and fire rated shutters to slow down the spread of fire in the building.
Fire Rated Shutters for Schools
Fire rated shutters help to control the spread of fire within a building, by separating it into different compartments to help the fire to be contained. Shutters can be attached to a school’s alarm system to trigger automatically if smoke or a fire is detected.
DT Services use 4 hour rated shutters, which means that the shutter retains its integrity for up to 4 hours in the event of a fire. This can buy enough time to evacuate the school site and ensure the safety of staff and children.
Fire Doors for Schools
Emergency exits are required for all school buildings. Many of these exits also serve a double function as a fire door. As a form of passive fire resistance, fire doors are often seen by general users as just another door. However, they become essential if a fire breaks out in a building.
A fire door resists the spread of fire within the school. Most fire doors meet a minimum of FD30 rating, which means that they will retain their integrity for 30 minutes in the event of a fire. Like shutters, this gives extra time to evacuate a building in case of a fire emergency.
These doors can be combined with access control to increase security against unauthorised visitors or break-ins.
Fire Exit Maintenance
All building entrances and exits must be maintained appropriately. Fire door inspections ensure that doors are checked to maintain their integrity so they can effectively perform their duty in the event of a fire. Whilst fire door inspections are not a legal requirement, it is highly advisable to hire a qualified engineer to conduct them regularly (at least every 6 months). Schools can face prosecution if a door is not kept in working condition, and regular inspections help ensure compliance.
How DT Services Can Help You to Safeguard Schools
DT Services Ltd have over 20 years experience of manufacturing, installing and maintaining automatic entrance solutions. With expertise of working with schools to secure their entrances, we can help you to ensure your buildings are safe and secure for all of your users.
If you already have entry systems installed, we offer maintenance plans to ensure that everything stays in good working order, and keeps you compliant with relevant legislation.
Get in touch to speak to one of our engineers, who will be happy to give you a no-obligation consultation.