Ofsted grades are important but, whether you're happy with a Good rating or want to reach for the stars and get Outstanding, could your School's security be letting you down?
Although Ofsted is not a security/HSE regulation authority and there is no set criteria for evaluating health and safety, it plays a large part in your School's inspection. 2016 guidance given to Ofsted inspectors makes numerous references to the safeguarding and security of pupils, staff and visitors.
"Inspectors will always have regard for how well children and learners are helped and protected so that they are kept safe."
While protecting and safeguarding children isn't solely about the physical security of the School, it is still an important factor to consider.
In fact, Ofsted's Safeguarding in schools: best practice document refers to site security as an element of safeguarding and a common feature of Outstanding schools.
In evaluating the effectiveness of safeguarding in schools, inspectors focus on a broad range of issues including:
'the effectiveness of health and safety policies and procedures, including conducting necessary risk assessments as well as regular checks on equipment and premises and the effectiveness of arrangements to provide a safe environment and secure school site.'
These references indicate that your Osted Inspector will be checking for a safe and secure site.
So what is it exactly that the inspectors are looking for and does your School comply?
Here are some examples of what the Ofsted guidance asks inspectors to look for, it's a good idea for you to consider these too:
This list along with the previous references indicate that inspectors will be considering the physical safety and security of your School.
So how can you maximise the physical security of your School to reduce the health and safety risks to your pupils, staff and visitors?
Well, the options are varied but here's a short list of typical physical security features you can have installed in your School. The most common security features we install at Blake's are:
While all Schools will have some of these security systems, sadly they aren't always fit for purpose. This may be due to substandard maintenance or even poor planning and installation in the first place!
For example, the mere existence of Fire Extinguishers isn't sufficient if they haven't been maintained properly. You need to be sure your extinguishers will provide adequate cover if the worst happens. A broken or malfunctioning Fire Extinguisher is worse than useless and could even be putting people at risk.
It's critical your school employs professional, qualified Security and Fire Safety contractors to design, install and maintain your systems. The old adage springs to mind - if you think a professional is expensive, try using an amateur!
Budget plays a huge part in a School's decision about which contractors to use but, as with most things, deciding on price alone isn't wise. Cheapest isn't always best!
In fact, on numerous occasions after taking over maintenance for schools, we've discovered systems that weren't anywhere near fit for purpose.
To protect against choosing the wrong installation company, you can check for competency by looking for specific accreditations. You can check some of these online, including:
It's more than a good idea to check these accreditations, it's vital. If there is an emergency and something goes wrong, you could be liable - regardless of what the Ofsted Inspectors think!
In 2009, a School's governing body was prosecuted when a contracted worker accidentally set fire to the School while using an electric saw. They were fined £2,000 (see page 4) for not ensuring the contractors they used were competent to perform the job required.
Crucially, if the school had checked that the contractor was accredited before employing him, then they could have proved they had done everything reasonable to ensure the competence of the hired workers.
Getting Health and Safety right includes security and will keep the Ofsted Inspectors happy. Failing to do so may result in fines and prosecutions which can have a big impact on the School's budget and day to day running, as well as reputation.