UK schools are experiencing a growing trend for violent attacks on staff and students. In 2015, there were reports of incidents all over the country, including Dulwich (1) in London, Dorset (2) and Somerset (3) in the South, and Leeds (4) and Bradford (5) in the North. However, it’s not just direct attacks on school property which are causing concern, but other incidents which potentially put staff and students at risk. Examples of dangerous occurrences include armed raiders running into a school after a robbery (6), a secure unit abscondee on the loose in Conwy (7), a man wielding a gun outside a Cambridge school (8) and a shooting outside a Liverpool school (9). All these resulted in schools going into lockdown.
It is essential that accurate information is communicated clearly and quickly throughout the school, no matter whether the situation warrants evacuation or lockdown. Schools must have a working fire alarm fitted by law, but many use the same fire bell to announce class changes. This can lead to confusion, and whilst a bell can provide a clear alert that an emergency situation has arisen, it cannot differentiate between lockdown or evacuation. In the event of a possible violent intruder on the premises, the last thing any school wants is pupils streaming out onto a playground and gathering at assembly points.
To solve this issue, some schools have installed integrated class change and PA systems such as Bodet’s Harmonys, which store a range of different tones, melodies and pre-recorded voice messages. As well as routine announcements such as class change, lunch or the end of school, in the event of an emergency they enable specific alarms to be broadcast across the entire site. That way, both staff and pupils know what’s happening and what action to take.
Due to the random nature of these attacks and threats, there is little schools can do to prevent them. However, by having clear and effective communication systems installed alongside robust lockdown and evacuation procedures, schools can be certain they are doing all they can to ensure the safety of staff and students.
Richard Manby is managing director of Bodet Class Change Systems