Common issues with school fencing, and how to avoid them
Supplier Focus: Security
Fencing is essential for schools to provide security, safety, and demarcation, but unfortunately, we see issues arising all too frequently for various reasons. An effective school fencing solution requires careful thought and planning, as well as commitment to using qualified industry professionals and suitable products.
Failure to visualise the end result
When we make any purchase, it generally comes with a contemplation about the end result, and buyer's remorse creeps in when the product does not live up to our expectations. Fencing is a costly investment and not to mention a large product that is not exactly simple to return. Once installed, this is pretty much impossible, so research and visualisation for how it will look around your school site are essential to prevent being disappointed with the outcome. Companies that can provide evidence of previous experience such as case studies, and hold accreditations to demonstrate their expertise are a good place to start for inspiration. They will be also be able to provide experts to carry out a site visit and help you start the planning process. When creating a plan, make sure you include all eventualities, and consider factors such as privacy, noise reduction, and aesthetics, as well as security. From experience we have seen schools unhappy due to installing unsuitable fencing from lack of understanding or planning, and proceeding to installing a second fence alongside to try and cover the mistake. This is completely inefficient and requires double the effort and expense; two lots of foundations to be dug, twice the amount of concrete to set posts, double the time spent installing, and so on, when a suitable solution should have been planned from the beginning.
Truancy is a common problem for schools that do not regularly inspect the perimeter for vulnerable points, or install suitable measures from the offset. Over the years, we've seen students use a range of techniques to escape, including cutting holes in fencing, lifting panels, climbing over, or removing pales. Chain link is unsuitable for school perimeters, firstly its appearance can create a hostile environment, but it can also be easily cut through to create an access point. Check whether there are any objects such as bin stores, trees or lampposts next to the perimeter fence that provide a climbing aid. Increasingly, schools are situated within residential areas, and often boundaries between schools and private properties are shared. Naturally, an attractive fence will be desired by the adjacent residents, but this can cause issues. Timber fence panels that have been installed in concrete slotted posts are unsuitable, as panels can be lifted between the posts and replaced to gain repeated access. Ensure timber slotted posts are used to allow panels to be securely attached. Similarly, fencing that has visible bolts is easily compromised; bolts can be removed and pales swung to the side to allow access, and replaced to hide all evidence of a breach that can be used repeatedly. The fence may look like it's secure, but close inspection will reveal otherwise.
Unsafe play area fencing
Each year, there are an estimated 40,000 injuries on playgrounds that result in a hospital visit, and this includes injuries from unsafe fencing and gates around play areas. Injuries can result from fencing that has an unsafe top, fencing being too close to play equipment, scratches or splinters from peeling paint, loose nails or rough timber, trapped limbs between incorrectly spaced pales, and fingers crushed by gates slamming shut. Investing in safe fencing means investing in a child's safe and happy development through play. Look for fencing that is designed to BS EN 1176 and approved by RoSPA. Fencing designed to these standards will have wide, smooth planed timber pales and safe fixings, or metal pales that have been powder coated for a glossy finish that will not crack or chip. Importantly, pales should be correctly spaced to conform to anti-trap regulations to prevent limbs being trapped. A picket or palisade fence may look attractive and fit the correct height specification for a playground, but it has not been designed to playground standards. Gates around play areas can also cause injuries if they are not designed to the same standards, and should incorporate soft-close, timed operation to prevent them from slamming shut, and be designed to stop entrapment.
Privacy and noise reduction
There is a balance to be achieved between providing privacy, and visibility to allow clear views of outside risks. If your school is on a busy road or in a densely populated area, students could be at risk from passers-by. To prevent this it's recommended that fencing has a more solid design to increase privacy for students and stop outside contact. Mesh designs with timber slats provide the best of both a strong steel structure, and a natural appearance that increases privacy. Alternatively, timber acoustic barriers are an ideal choice. Timber acoustic barriers have a natural, attractive appearance and are completely solid, so they increase privacy, while their anti-climb flat profile also improves security. Additionally they reduce noise on both sides so they create a quieter learning environment within the school, and more peaceful living for nearby residents.
Poor access control and traffic flow
We often see schools that struggle with traffic flow around site. Gates and access control should be incorporated into the initial security plan to make sure they fit well and do not compromise the effectiveness of the fencing. Ideally, schools should have a minimum of two gates, one for pedestrians and one for vehicles. A second vehicular gate is also useful for creating a one way system around the site to avoid confusion. Where only one gate exists, a simple solution is to install access restrictions such as removable bollards or traffic arm barriers that reduce the hours that vehicles can enter, and increase safety. In addition, gates should be clearly signposted, with warnings for students, staff, and visitors. It is also integral that fencing or railings are used to create a pedestrian walkway next to vehicular access routes, to safely segment students from traffic. It's important that gates match the design and height of the fencing to prevent creating any weak points. If you opt for automated gates, it's essential that they are installed by a reputable and approved professional, and regularly maintained. Improperly calibrated gates can pose a huge safety risk, not to mention the issues they could cause when out of action and requiring repair.
Fencing should be regularly inspected for clues that it has been tampered with to gain access or provide a means to escape, or whether it is posing a danger to students and staff. Often, signs are attached to perimeter fences, so check that these are not creating blind spots for surveillance, or creating an arm trap. Give the fence a push to check its structural integrity and look for any leaning inwards or outwards. The fence may look fine, but a bad installation or shifting foundations could pose a danger, especially if a student tries to climb.
Viewing fencing as just a security measure
Fencing is not just installed for security, it has a host of other benefits that we have briefly touched on, such as adding privacy, its noise reduction potential, or helping to create a welcoming environment. Fencing is one of the first things that prospective students and their parents will see when passing by or visiting the school. Cheap, poor quality fencing that has not been designed with aesthetics in mind will not paint a great picture of the establishment. Fencing can be used to convey your school's ethos through colours and style. Elegant, decorative railings with a glossy powder coated finish will create a much more welcoming and positive environment than tall steel fencing with barbed wire. It might look secure, but it will create a prison-like setting that does not achieve healthy mental wellbeing and effective learning.
Buying lower quality fencing to save money
Fencing should always be seen as an investment. High quality fencing costs more upfront, but when compared with the cost of repairing or replacing inferior alternatives, often multiple times during the same timeframe, higher quality fencing works out to be more economical in the long run. In addition to the monetary value, the whole process of planning and ordering fencing uses valuable resources, so it's unlikely that you'll want to repeat it more often than you have to. We manufacture fencing and gates in the UK using premium steel, applying high quality coatings to increase longevity, and finishing with galvanised or stainless steel fixings to ensure they last as long as the fencing.
Research experienced fencing companies for inspiration
Visualise the end result, and book a site visit to confirm achievability
Cover all requirements - privacy, safety, security, aesthetics, quality, sustainability
Plan for all eventualities, including truancy
Incorporate access control at the same time as fencing
Think of it as a long-term investment - you don't want to have to repeat this process again anytime soon
Ensure fencing does not pose a danger to students and staff
All Jacksons Fencing products are guaranteed for 25 years to provide you with protection and peace of mind. If you are working on a project that requires school fencing and gates, or you need advice from an expert, contact us today.
In Ipsos MORI’s latest KnowledgePanel poll, the most preferred options for catching up on lost learning from parents are to receive increased wellbeing support (56%) and additional tutoring sessions outside of school hours (55%).