All schools have a duty to provide a safe and secure learning environment – and access control technology has an increasingly important role to play, says Matthew Grimley…
The issue of security in schools is as important today as it ever has been. The safety and wellbeing of schoolchildren is a front that school staff and parents can unite on; amidst new security concerns, student safety is being pushed further up the agenda.
With such a transient population of staff, students and visitors moving through the school gates every morning, the use of access control measures are increasingly proving their value within a school setting.
Access control systems provide automated entry to authorised individuals and deny access to any unauthorised visitors. They consist of three key components known as the physical barrier, the identification device and the door controller software. The physical barrier usually consists of a door or gate – which should comply with the essential British Standard PAS 24-1 ‘Doors of Enhanced Security’ – and secured with a magnetic or strike lock. The identification device provides authorised individuals with a method for gaining entry through the physical barrier, usually in the form of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), smart card and reader, swipe card and reader or PIN entry pads. Door controller software makes the decision on who can gain access, through which entry points and at which times of the day.
There are a vast number of access control applications in schools, which include controlling the movement of people around the site, protecting valuable or dangerous equipment and protecting confidential student and staff records. Some schools - where increased security measures are necessary - are utilising access control solutions to control entry to the school site by using turnstiles or speed gates coupled with a smart card, which limits entry to one person for one card presented. Each smart card is unique to the student or staff member and can be granted different levels of access.
Restricted areas such as store cupboards housing valuable or dangerous equipment can be protected using access control so that only staff members can gain access. The same can be said for staff rooms or offices which may contain confidential student and staff records.
The same smart card – when integrated with a School Information Management System (SIMS) – can also be used to monitor attendance records and facilitate cashless catering and library services. Indeed, one of the most powerful benefits of access control technology is its ability to integrate with other security solutions such as CCTV, intruder alarms and business management systems seamlessly.
Access control solutions offer an effective method of securing educational premises and thanks to their capacity to integrate with supplementary technology, the benefits are clear to see. With valuable equipment on-site and the overriding importance of ensuring the safety of staff and pupils, crime prevention in schools deserves the highest priority. In recognition of this, the BSIA has produced a guide to access control for education establishments, which can be downloaded by visiting www.bsia.co.uk/publications.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Grimley is Senior Communications Executive at the British Security Industry Association, the trade body representing the UK’s private security industry. Members of the BSIA are responsible for more than 70% of privately provided UK security products and services. For further information, visit www.bsia.co.uk.The BSIA operates a local rate helpline on 0845 389 3889.
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