With International Children’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to talk about something we feel is very important; safeguarding in schools. In particular, how building design and facilities can aid with safeguarding children, which is something we take great care over when working on projects with schools. No one should be going to school with concerns over their safety. Schools should be a safe, risk-free environment to encourage learning and development. There is plenty that we, as architects and project managers, can do to help with these aims.
Safeguarding is defined as protecting someone from harm, mental or physical, from any person, whether they are a fellow student or from an adult. Of course, there is no way to completely eliminate every risk. There will always be the school bullies, for example. However, there are plenty of things that we can do to minimise the risk towards the safety of children at school. Some of these points help to cover regulations and standards, but currently there are not many rules when it comes to building in regards to safeguarding.
School Building Design for Safeguarding Children
For starters, there are many fundamentals to take into account when designing new buildings which can aid with safeguarding. For example, there shouldn’t be any security blind spots. No recesses that people could hide in, or be able to break into the school unobserved. This is, of course, to prevent intruders being able to access the school or have anywhere to hide from security. However, this should also make students feel safer from other people that are allowed in the school, such as staff and other students.
Another thing to keep in mind, architecturally speaking, is making sure that areas are well lit. There shouldn’t be dark, shadowy areas, for similar reasons to the above. This could be externally, around the school buildings and in courtyards, but also inside. There should be as much natural light as possible, otherwise substituting this with extra lighting. Visibility is key for enabling safeguarding within a school.
Security Measures to Help Safeguard Children
CCTV cameras are a necessity in schools. Whilst security is the main focus here, it is important to strike the right balance between security and creating an oppressive atmosphere. Strategically placing cameras to view as much as possible, with the least number of cameras, is ideal. It is also important that camera footage is only accessible by necessary members of staff, to maintain safeguarding standards.
CCTV is a useful deterrent for bullying and illegal behaviour from students and can be used as evidence should anything arise on the premises. The main use, however, is for monitoring purposes, especially for areas where people might be able to get in, such as car parks or delivery/storage areas.
Another security measure that can be implemented is access control via electronic passes for staff. They are used to allow staff to access the building/different areas of the building, such as the staff room. This ensures that only those who are permitted on the premises can get access. The added benefit is that all staff will also have accountability, as pass usage will be logged, monitored and can be used as corroborating evidence should anything ever need to be investigated. Having logs of who is in the building is also vital for fire safety.
Using passes is also useful for accessing classrooms. It isn’t a good idea to let children access classrooms without supervision, so ensuring they can only get in with a teacher present is vital. Should passes not be used then some other form of locking should be available, such as a keypad.
However, it is important that the doors can be opened from the inside without a key, so that there isn’t any risk of them being trapped inside.
Securing the Perimeter
The boundary of a school is very important. Keeping people out that aren’t allowed in and keeping people in that aren’t allowed out. It’s basically as simple as that. Fencing needs to be adequate to make sure it can not be easily scaled or broken through from either side. Additionally, gates should be added, both for pedestrian and vehicular access. These gates offer increased security, especially if they can be operated electronically, with access control.
Other Safeguarding Measures
These measures are only the beginning for safeguarding in schools. It is important to back up these physical measures with policies, training and culture to continue reducing the risks. Policies include controlling visitor access, a structure for reporting abuse and a code of conduct for staff.
Safeguarding and Child Protection training should be given to staff upon induction to a school, along with updates as new rules come into play. This training should cover all the necessary skills and knowledge to safeguard children, how to spot potential signs of abuse and also make them aware of the process should a child inform them that they are being abused, exploited or neglected.
Finally, the culture of the school should promote safeguarding. Letting students know they can report things. Posters featuring anti-bullying messages and advice to stay safe online. Teaching students about appropriate behaviour in classes, setting a good example and much more can all combine to help reduce safeguarding issues in schools.
Whilst there aren’t many “official rules” to promote safeguarding via building design, there is a document created by the Police Crime Prevention Initiative as part of their Secure By Design series. This document is mainly designed to reduce overall crime, but many of the points included are relevant for aiding with safeguarding too.
Funding for Safeguarding Children
Introducing all of these safeguarding measures it obviously very important, but it can also be quite expensive to implement everything, especially if building works are required. To help with this, the government can provide funding for schools and other educational institutions. One such programme is called CIF, the Condition Improvement Fund for academies. Munday + Cramer have had particular success in helping academies with bids for funding, helping to secure well in excess of £100 million on various projects.
There are many steps that can be taken to improve the safeguarding of children in schools, from initial building designs, right through to training individual teachers. Get started on the right tracks with Munday + Cramer. We have years of experience designing whole schools, extensions and improvements. We can manage projects from conception to implementation.
For more information on how the team here at Munday + Cramer can help in this process, or if you would like to find out more about our building surveying services, operating in Essex, London, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200.