Schools in the UK are becoming increasingly concerned with safety and security in and around schools, but are they going a step too far?
Around the UK new advanced technologies are being introduced to improve the safety and well-being of pupils in and around schools, and to protect them from the dangers present.
But is increased security a good thing for schools and pupils? Or are schools in the UK taking pupils security and new technologies too far?
In America, safety measures at schools are taken to the extreme. Many schools are “aggressively collecting information on students” and have security cameras and audio recorders, and yet there are countless incidents in and around schools, as well as more serious problems. School massacres such as “the Columbine Massacre” in 1999 and the more recent “Virginia Tech Massacre” in 2007 show that extreme security measures in America are not working.
Do new security measures in the UK do more bad then good for children?
Alison Pointon, School Business Manager at Kenilworth School and Sports College secondary school believes that schools are taking positive and necessary steps towards securing the safety of pupils at schools.
“I’ve just overseen the building of a number of security gates on the school site. Kenilworth School is a large site with many access points, and what was to stop anyone from walking onto the site without permission? Now both staff and pupils can feel safe at school”.
Mrs. Pointon believes the new security gates have multiple safety benefits for the children.
“The gates also stop pupils from leaving without authorisation, for example at lunchtimes. Before pupils could just walk off site without permission and were exposed to all sorts of dangers, such as road accidents and strangers. The gates are now locked at lunch and break times and this will improve the safety of our pupils, which is a priority for us.”
Kenilworth School are also looking into further safety measures, such as swipe cards and access codes. “ Many schools are doing the same, it’s all in the interest of the children’s safety and their education”.
Some people disagree with Mrs. Pointon, and believe new technology and safety measures can go too far.
When the new gates were introduced at Kenilworth School, new fingerprint scanners used to gain entrance and give payment at the cafeteria were also installed.
A parent of two was shocked to hear that her daughters fingerprints had been taken by the school and kept on record, all without her consent. “When my daughter told me I was shocked, us parents hadn’t heard anything about it and it seemed quite extreme.
In an elementary school in New Mexico, United States “hand geometry” readers were installed that read the unique print of a human hand to ensure only authorised adults pick up children. But conditions in the UK are not half as dangerous as those in New Mexico so are they really necessary?
The parent immediately emailed the principle of Kenilworth School to express her anger and concern, also demanding her daughters fingerprints be removed from file.
“I found out the prints are held by a third party. With all the issues about missing data and fraud you can’t be too careful. And it’s only to access to the cafeteria”.
Eventually Head Teacher of Kenilworth School apologised to the parent and her daughters fingerprints were removed from the system.
“I appreciate that new technologies are being put in place to improve the quality of my children’s education and safety, but they‘re going too far. Kenilworth is a nice area with very little crime or trouble. The increased security makes me more concerned about my child’s safety than before.
“It’s almost an issue of human rights, it‘s a step too far”.
One teacher who has taught at Castle Sixth Form in Kenilworth for 15 years and she agrees with the parent.
“New security measures, such as the gates and swipe cards are beneficial in improving security, but they can go too far.”
She believes there is no reason to trust a third party with private information, such as finger prints. “It’s almost an issue of human rights, it’s a step too far.”
“There was little security when I was at school. Whereas I can see improvements in schools now it almost desensitises children to the real world, and teachers and pupils are less conscious to the dangers that exist.”
She and the parent both believe that within the UK drastic precautionary measures are necessary in order to protect the safety and welfare of pupils and teachers in certain areas, but not nationwide.
In the worst areas, such as London, Birmingham and Liverpool metal detectors have been introduced to prevent crimes, mainly weapon related. Such drastic security has been installed due to the number of attacks in and outside of schools around the area.
In 2008 a 16 year old school boy was jailed after stabbing another pupil during a row outside a North London school.
Although schools are working towards preventing crimes and improving the safety of pupils in and around school, there will always be dangers and threats to children.
In March last year a 14-year-old girl was stabbed several times outside of a secondary school by a man who did not attend the school.
Andrew Best, who is on the Board of Governors at Kenilworth School and Sports College, believes schools are disproportionate in terms of figures, such as cases of abductions and paedophiles. “Very few actual cases occur in the UK. The priority is to remove the danger completely, but exaggerating the dangers can lead to excessive worrying and pressures on schools to address these problems.”
He believes pressure placed on schools leads to money being spent on new technologies and security measures which are often unnecessary. “The impact of new security measures are often very little.”
Mr. Best identifies new technologies themselves to be the biggest danger to children’s security and safety, such as cyber-bullying and social-media sites. “The internet has created multiple security and safety problems for pupils and young people, such as online bullying and the dangers of paedophiles. These are the problems that need to be addressed.”
Whereas the intention is to protect the safety of pupils and make them feel secure and comfortable in and around schools, are we taking school security too far in the UK?
New, expensive technologies and security devices are being introduced into schools that do not necessarily need them.
Could this desensitise our children to the dangers of the “real world” outside of those large metal? Or could excessive security further increase fears and insecurities in both pupils and parents, leading to expensive and unnecessary new security devices.
Or will schools and parents realise that there will always be dangers present to children in schools and wake up to the new dangers presenting themselves to school children, such as cyber-bullying and make a real difference to the safety of children.