Keeping Education Facilities Safe with Access Control Solutions

Aside from their homes, their school should be the one place children are guaranteed safety. Every child should have a safe and secure environment in which to learn and develop, and as such, schools have a duty to ensure they have adequate security systems in place. Many situations pose a security risk for schools.
Besides the obvious risk of thieves entering to steal school equipment or committing acts of vandalism, other threats include non-custodial parents or guardians entering, unauthorised guests, predators and even volatile terrorist or hostage situations occurring.

Schools have a legal responsibility to ensure the safeguarding (safe from harm and abuse) of all children in their care. This particularly applies but is not limited to the time in which pupils are present on the school premises. From this, we see that protecting a school from security threats goes much further than just the school buildings.

School Security Building Management

Physical security in education establishments should not be undervalued as it plays a significant role in ensuring the effectiveness of access control systems. Both work hand-in-hand to provide effective security and safety for staff and pupils. In most situations, the education sector does not require its buildings or grounds to have electric fencing, barbed wire or massive security gates. However, defining clear perimeters using barriers, signs, and specific entrances goes a long way to enhance a school’s security. Furthermore, it ensures that those entering the school know that the school is aware of who should be in those areas. Those outside these areas are easily spotted and either guided to the correct location or asked to leave.

For example, well-lit entrances free of obstruction ensure that staff members easily detect those trying to gain unauthorised access to the school. This type of access control is also known as natural access control or surveillance. This natural access control is further enhanced by signage marking relevant access routes to visitors, such as the main office. Additionally, a visitor’s car park separate from that of staff members with clear pathways to the visitors’ entrance provides a controlled and secure way of managing those entering the school premises.

Access points should also be physically checked. While protecting the front door to the school building is essential, so is securing the emergency exits. Although infrequently used, these exit doors present a genuine risk if left unsecured. As a result, unauthorised individuals will be able to access the school without notifying the main office. Once access is gained, this puts staff, pupils and school property at risk of harm or damage. The most important part of physical security in schools is regular maintenance and completing physical checks. By conducting a regular safety assessment, the protection of the school buildings and grounds can be ensured, and any security issues can be resolved quickly. This can be as simple as walking around the school site’s interior and exterior perimeters.

Here are some tips to ensure your school building remains secure throughout the school day.

  • Fences/ gates should be installed and regularly checked to keep students and staff safe from intruders.
  • Visitors and staff car parking should be monitored for suspicious activity.
  • Access routes should be limited, clearly marked and visible.
  • Visitors should be directed to the main office to sign in/ announce their arrival.
  • External doors should be locked or monitored throughout the school day.
  • Access to sensitive areas can be limited by using swipe cards or keypads.
  • Official school uniforms can be a form of low-level ID for children entering the school.

School Access Control

Access control systems provide schools with a cost-effective way of verifying and confirming the identity of individuals entering the premises. They can be used to identify staff, pupils and contractors and be used to monitor and restrict access to specific areas by setting up access permissions. These restricted areas can be controlled using fobs, access cards and keypads. Should these access points be breached by those without access rights, school access control systems can be set up to sound an alarm or lock down the school depending on the perceived threat. This instantly secures the school from further threat while the breach is investigated. It’s not uncommon for schools to experience incidences of violence such as bullying or vandalism; the unbiased evidence a school access control system can provide helps resolve and prevent incidents of this nature. Parents and students should be made aware that a certain level of conduct is expected on the school property and that the CCTV system is monitoring them. This type of monitoring prevents anti-social behaviour on the school grounds.

Further to providing security and evidential proof during school hours, school access control systems also help to protect sensitive information. This includes personal information relating to students and teachers, exam papers, reports and other records. Access controls systems can prevent sensitive data from landing in the wrong hands by providing delegated access privileges to specific individuals.

Access control comprises five categories: manual, mechanical, electronic, mechatronics (electronic & key), and physical.

There are three popular access control tools used in schools:

  1. Security access systems
    These types of systems can include biometric information such as fingerprint or facial recognition and photo IDs allowing students or staff access to facilities. Other forms of security access systems include electronic keypads requiring a code or the swipe of a smart card to gain access to buildings or areas. Because schools have multiple access points, security access systems can help monitor, secure and prevent security breaches rather than requiring a staff member to monitor each entry point.
  2. Visitor management systems
    School ID cards can help schools manage student attendance, store vital emergency contact or medical information and most importantly, track visitors. Preloaded cards can also be used to pay for lunches, manage library items and verify access to the student computer system. In addition, School IDs are excellent for identifying both staff and students, keeping them safe from intruders posing as either one. They can also be used as an attendance register for classes or during an emergency situation such as a fire.
  3. Digital kiosks/check-in systems
    These systems can be used to sign visitors into the school building eliminating the need for outdated paper-based systems. They can also be linked to other services preventing would-be offenders or non-legal guardians from entering the school premises. Other forms of check-in that could be used are staffed/manned reception areas, access card controlled turnstiles and entry vestibules, but these can be very costly.
    Satori risk is a Paxton accredited installer offering control systems that can be customised to suit each school environment. Schools can manage multiple buildings, set access rights, automate security settings and even integrate their security system with other systems.

Easy Integration Security Solutions

Standalone access control systems such keypad controlled front doors are excellent security measures compared to a standard door lock requiring a key. This is because a standard key can be lost, stolen, copied, or simply forgotten. However, a control system provides additional security and peace of mind. And when linked to other access controls, it can further enhance the school site’s security and control things such as visitor management for staff, pupils and guests.
To explain this in more detail, let’s look at how implementing a fully integrated system such as the NET2 IP door entry system for schools improves a school’s security. This accredited Paxton system integrates existing control systems to secure the entire school site. For example, existing control systems could be the school’s CCTV systems, ID card systems or check-in systems. These systems can be linked and provide streamlined security measures that protect and help with the school’s running.

The system can also integrate with visitor management systems and CCTV to provide enhanced security for the school. For example, the CCTV system can provide real-time visibility of individuals trying to access the site. By recording or taking a photo of those granted or denied access to the site or specific areas, those monitoring the system can take the necessary action. Visitor management solutions can further improve this security by requiring a digital sign-in from visitors, providing automatic access to delegated areas. Additionally, staff ID cards used to sign in and out at the beginning and end of each day would provide site management with attendance and time data. This data could be used to validate wage slips, ensure whereabouts in an emergency or be used as evidence in an internal enquiry.

Integrated access control systems are also highly beneficial for multi-site environments. For example, staff or visitors may need access to multiple buildings during their workday. With a connected solution, staff would only need one access card or fob to access permitted areas on the school site. In addition, integrated systems monitoring multiple locations can be managed from a central point by a single individual or small team. The alerts and information received centrally can be used to secure multiple sites, reducing the need for large teams of security personnel. This makes an integrated system very cost-effective as it reduces staffing levels and additional administration.

Once the integrated access control system is in place, it can also be used to manage the student base. Here the system could be used not only to allow pupils access to the site but also to track their attendance. Linking to MIS systems (management information systems) such as SIMS (student information management system), the control system is capable of taking the class register, thus removing the need for staff to maintain outdated paper-based records. Furthermore, this electronic register managed by the integrated control system notes the time and attendance of each pupil on site. This data can be integrated with Health and Safety systems to provide accurate attendance information in the event of a fire or evacuation situation. In these situations, knowing where each pupil, staff or guest is on the premises ensures everyone is accounted for and very likely saves lives!

In addition to managing attendance, an integrated access control system can go one step further and link into the fire alarm system. This provides additional safety and security by ensuring that all exit doors and routes secured by the access control system are open and free from obstruction during an evacuation situation. And in the event of an emergency, staff, pupils and guests can exit the school building safely.

Lastly, an integrated system promotes a safe and secure environment for pupils by alleviating the need to carry cash. There are many instances in a school environment where payments are required. For example, paying for school meals, school trips, stationary or small items of uniform such as ties or badges. However, this can prove problematic if the cash is lost or stolen. Integrating the access control system with a cashless vending system allows students to upload a cash value onto their access card or use biometrics such as a fingerprint to purchase or pay for specific items. This removes the need to carry cash during the school day. Furthermore, if the card is lost, the system (Net2) can cancel and reissue the card easily.

In summary, integrated systems have the following benefits:

  • Reduced Administration

Integrated systems can be managed from a central point by integrating CCTV, visitor management, biometrics and fire alarm systems.

  • Reduced costs

Single individuals or smaller teams are required to monitor the school’s security.

  • Greater visibility

Attendance of staff, pupils and visitors can be monitored, and data can be used to manage site safety.

  • Enhanced safety and security

Cashless vending, electronic attendance registers and controlled entrance and exits provide additional onsite safety for all visitors.

An integrated security solution provides schools with the necessary means to protect staff, pupils and visitors onsite from outside threats. However, it also ensures that onsite Health and Safety measures are adequate. Moreover, it protects the actual building and equipment from theft and vandalism. When a school’s access control system is integrated with other security-enhancing systems such as CCTV and visitor management systems, it provides a safe and secure environment for staff and pupils alike.