Designing schools with security in mind

A sensible and practical level of security, which will not adversely affect the efficient running of the school, is essential to a successful teaching and learning environment. The majority of criminal incidents in schools relate to property crime. This is because the modern school contains a vast array of portable and desirable goods with a ready market, such as personal computers, laptops, digital projectors and other valuable equipment. Other crimes that occur, particularly in our larger cities, are acts of vandalism, arson and assaults. Assaults range from staff being physically assaulted by parents and students, to bullying by one or more students against another. In more recent times ‘cyber’ bullying has become a noticeable problem in schools, although there are now software solutions that are proving to be most effective. The victims of school crime can also extend beyond the staff and students as many schools now open in the evening and at weekends for use by the local community for activities such as adult education, sport and social events.

Secured by Design (SBD) is a police initiative owned and operated by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives Ltd on behalf of the UK police service, which aims to utilise design principles and products in the built environment that reduce the risk of crime by combining minimum standards of physical security and proven principles of natural surveillance and defensible space. Secured by Design New Schools is one of several guidance documents that aim to reduce crime in our built environment. Section 1 of the guide concentrates on generic environmental crime prevention issues, whilst Section 2 deals with the specific physical crime prevention requirements.

Developers can apply for a Secured by Design Award, which is a certificate given to building developments which, following consultation with crime prevention design advisors from the local police force, are built to Secured by Design guidelines and so reduce the opportunity for crime. This award can be used to discharge legal security requirements and is proof that the building and grounds have been designed with the security of students and teachers in mind.

A new scheme, SBD National Building Approval, has recently been launched. It allows developers to agree all aspects of physical security for each building long before any development is realised or planned and is only undertaken once. It will discharge legal building security obligations and SBD do all the due diligence on behalf of the developer. Best of all: this is a practically free service for developers. More information on this scheme can be found at

In addition to the design guide for schools, SBD has recently created an interactive guide that can be used to explore the principles of designing out crime within a fictional school complex. It shows examples of good design as well as examples of risks that may inadvertently be included in the design of the building and grounds by providing visual scenarios that highlight the design decisions that would increase the risk of crime and anti-social behaviour. This interactive guide is one of a series that also includes residential and commercial scenarios. Visit to run through the various scenarios.

The police service places great importance upon the need to build sustainable developments. This not only includes the need to use environmentally friendly products, materials and construction methods, but also the need to raise awareness of the fact that crime prevention is a positive sustainability issue. Academic research conducted on behalf of Secured by Design has confirmed that crime alone is responsible for the release of at least 6,000,000 tonnes of CO² into the atmosphere each year. It therefore follows that the achievement of a Secured by Design certificate for the school not only indicates that the designer has made a significant effort to create a secure teaching environment (recognised by the police), but by doing so has also reduced the school’s carbon footprint.

It is also important that the benefits of a new secure school are complemented with a clear management and maintenance programme to ensure a safe and secure teaching and learning environment. Further information about risk management in both new and existing schools can be obtained from the SBD partner initiative ‘Secured Environments’ at

For more information about Secured by Design, the SBD Award and crime prevention advice, visit our website.