Exclusive: Protecting what’s precious for schools

November 26, 2020


With the Prime Minister pledging funding of £1bn for 50 major school building projects in England and a further £560m for repairs to “crumbling school buildings”, Jamie Allam, CEO, Amthal Fire & Security looks at the security implications to ensure any investment is protected.

“As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission,” said Boris Johnson.

To carve our way out of the COVID-19 lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is introducing a number of measures to help infrastructure projects to ‘revive’ the economy.

The investment in schools is welcome news.

The 50 school building projects will be identified later in this year, with works starting from September 2021, in a ten-year programme with £1bn in funding.

There will be an extra £560m for upgrades and repairs to schools for the next academic year – and £200m for improving further education colleges, which was previously announced, will be brought forward.

Security specification

An essential component of this will be the fire safety and security on site for the staff and pupils.

After all, to teach and to learn, staff and pupils must be safe and secure.

Efficient physical security can be designed in at the beginning. Any specification, whether for a new build or a refurbishment programme, should provide staff and managers of the school with the basic facilities necessary to easily maintain a secure environment for themselves and the children in their care.

School should also avoid the need for unsightly retrofitting of security systems leading inevitably to the undesirable ‘fortress’ look and reduction in the quality of the school environment.

To do this requires fundamental thought by specifiers, facility managers on site, planners and communication with security professionals at the start of the design process.

The preparation of a Crime Impact Statement at the outset will establish the risks and provide a basis for decisions regarding appropriate security features to be included in the design.

Every school will have different security requirements. Solutions will vary from site to site and will depend on the location and management style of the school.

From the outside in

Amthal would suggest the security of any school should be considered from the outside in, right from the perimeter (site boundary) and worked into internal security, recognising areas of concern and identifying potential measures which could be used to address these.

There are numerous different methods that any school can utilise to protect its perimeter.

And whilst it is true, demand for drone technology, thermal imaging cameras and sensor solutions is continuously increasing, that does not and should not mean that the traditional forms of physical security barricades, including gates, barriers and fencing are outdated or obsolete.

We work closely in partnership with the schools directly, or with the architect or main contractor, to create schools entrance systems that are carefully planned to form part of the overall architecture of a school site.

Here, the aesthetics and ergonomics of protective products are as important as their ability to secure any educational facility.

Systems need to blend with the built environment to ensure a school avoids becoming overly fortified. Instead it remains a place where pupils and staff can always feel stimulated and inspired to learn with peace of mind, they are safe.

Once installed, school gates should be kept closed and securely locked at all times during the school day. Having one main entrance in use during the daytime makes monitoring of strangers much easier.

Inside school security

Intruder alarms are also essential components to a school security solution. And this is not only installing, but also in maintenance terms to ensure they continue to operate to maximum capacity for the ultimate protection of all who learn and provide total peace of mind and assurance to the site management team.

A well-maintained system will also ensure compliance with building safety regulations and also help to ensure the school passes OFSTED with flying colours.

Fire exit doors should be kept shut, doors and windows should be locked when not in use or after school hours. All these are simple measures that make it as difficult as possible for the opportunist criminal to enter.

Efficient access control measures can also be prioritised for daytime security of the school as well as the personal safety of all users. Such control displays a well-managed and maintained environment in which security is clearly a significant consideration in the day to day running of the school.

Each of these considerations will help to establish a school that allows children to look forward to being in an encouraging environment, where staff feel safe to promote social and creative learning.

Specifying quality security products and tailoring solutions early in the specification process, right from the outside perimeter systems, through intruder alarms and intricate access control systems, can help to ensure staff and pupils can work and learn in a safe and secure school environment, without affecting every day operations or the aesthetics of an educational facility.

When this is considered together, Amthal can support the investment in building new schools and refurbishing existing, helping to ‘protect what’s precious’ for our staff and pupils for generations to come.

“This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand-new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education,” said Mr Johnson.

Jamie Allam


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