As thousands of UK schools close their doors for the Summer Holidays this year, school security is a major concern for many following a surge in theft and vandalism affecting schools in 2020 and 2021.
Back in 2020 Farsight reported a marked increase in incidents affecting school security and highlighted the importance of optimising physical security measures with monitored CCTV and Alarm systems. The effects of pandemic restrictions last year on school staffing levels, pupil attendance patterns and opening hours had a direct impact on the frequency of incidents.
Over the pandemic lockdowns both in 2020 and 2021 Farsight CCTV operators have seen an unprecedented surge in incidents involving youths congregating on the grounds of closed school premises, using these as hangout points or playgrounds, with incidents often escalating into vandalism, anti-social behaviour and even in some cases theft and even arson.
External factors that have also been affected by the pandemic restrictions include the global shortages to supply chains and components, which have bolstered the value and demand for stolen goods – attracting more organised and targeted theft attempts from organised criminal gangs.
In particular, the demand for laptops, computers and tablets has been exacerbated by this, with a laptop being stolen every 53 seconds in the UK. Demand for laptops has surged amid remote working and education with a new normal way of working emerging, but a chip shortage is leading to higher prices according to ZDNet.
The Guardian recently reported that one of the biggest laptop makers in the world, Acer, has said the worldwide global chip shortage will continue to have a “severe” impact on its production capabilities until at least the first or second quarter of next year.
How does the laptop shortage and demand for stolen goods affect school security?
According to statistics published by British Educational Suppliers Organisation (BESA) there are 3.3 million computers in UK classrooms across the 32,770 schools in the UK – many of these are currently standing empty during lockdown.
In fact, on average primary schools have 70 computers on site and secondary schools have 431. However, it is not just laptops and computers that are at risk, empty schools are an attractive target to burglars, thieves, vandals and even arsonists.
Let’s look at some of the incidents affecting school security across the UK in 2021 so far…
Reported School Security Incidents in 2021
School burglaries and thefts
Out of hours school premises can be an attractive target for thieves, with valuable assets like electrical equipment, sporting supplies etc. These can be attractive to criminal gangs as well as opportunists, with so many access points and places to hide, especially where their is minimal security protection in place.
> 40 Laptops stolen from Bassingbourn Village College – Cambridgeshire / July 2021.
> Spalding Grammar School burgled overnight – Lincolnshire / May 2021
> Thieves smash their way into a school on the first day of Easter Holidays – Lancashire / March 2021
> Thieves target primary school twice in one night to steal iPads – County Durham / February 2021
Structural damage & theft from school premises
Every week a thousand metal thefts occur across the UK, costing our economy approximately £770 Million a year.
> Thieves strip school roof lead in £30,000 attacks – Gloucestershire / March 2021
> Lead theft from Rushden roof leaves school with bill for thousands – Northamptonshire / January 2021
Metal theft especially is making a resurgence across the UK with heritage buildings, churches and schools in the cross hairs of unscrupulous criminal gangs. Read ore about metal thefts here: Metal Theft is through the roof again!
Vandalism & Anti-Social Behaviour
> School targeted by vandals during Summer holidays – Perthshire / July 2021
> Vandals trash Wimborne Kindergarten play equipment – Dorset / July 2021
> Investigation launched after School damaged by vandals – Cumberland / June 2021
> Youths climbing on Blackburn school roof risk serious injury – Lancashire / April 2021
Vehicle crime has surged across the UK, and vehicles left on school grounds over the Summer Holidays could be at risk if not adequately protected. There has been a spate of minibus thefts, which caused untold duress and stress to schools who rely on these.
> Park Community School minibus stolen – Hampshire / July 2021
> Thieves steal mini bus from Bartley School – Hampshire / May 2021
> Range Rover stolen from school car park – Gloucestershire / April 2021
The surge in vehicle thefts has been widely reported, with a vehicle being stolen every nine minutes, however, thefts of car parts such as catalytic converters has spiralled out of control too. Bicycles left at schools are also at risk, with insurers revealing that bike thefts have surged by a massive 66% from March 202 to February 2021 compared to the same period in the previous year – as reported by Cycling Weekly.
Arson at schools
Arson at schools in the UK is more common than you may think – arson attacks are serious and frequent with as many as 20 arson attacks on schools a week according to Essex County Fire & Rescue Service.
A fire in a school or education establishment can have a dramatic effect on the educational environment for the pupils and staff, either short term or long term. If a fire is small, such as a bin fire, is not reported and monitored with other activity it could lead to a major fire – like these reported incidents:
> Probe Launched into fire that ripped through old school – North Yorkshire July 2021
> Detectives appeal for witnesses and video footage after serious fire at school in Ormskirk – Lancashire June 2021
> Cheetham’s pupils evacuated as major fire breaks out with substantial damage – Manchester June 2021
How can schools optimise their security to prevent intruders?
As a leading remote security monitoring station, we work across a range of sectors including many education sector clients in helping them to proactively optimise their security to protect their people, premises and assets from burglary, theft and criminal damage.
Of course, many of our clients will agree there are distinct advantages of using CCTV cameras in schools and educational facilities. Our remote monitoring services of these premises outside of operating hours give the peace of mind that highly trained and experienced security experts are at hand to respond to triggered event activated alarms in real time.
1. How can CCTV monitoring help optimise school security?
With Farsight’s remote CCTV services in play, incidents can be proactively assessed and responded to in real time before they progress. Rapid response measures can include audio warnings, particularly effective in deterring would be intruders, as well as escalation to police and keyholders if needed.
These two recent intruders at a college in Buckinghamshire were stopped in their tracks as they realised they were being monitored on live CCTV after gaining access to the site at 10.30pm, following a live audio warning being issued:
Many news media articles, like the ones mentioned, feature retrospective accounts or footage to aid investigation of incidents after they have happened, and the damage has been done. Remote CCTV monitoring, however, can be beneficial in preventing incidents, in real time.
Another example of our proactive security prevention happened recently at a primary school when a gang’s attempt to break in was foiled. On this occasion, Farsight’s CCTV operators were alerted to intruders and subsequently called in the police, whilst observing their exact whereabouts on site with multiple CCTV cameras, aiding the police to corner and arrest them.
The above still image from CCTV footage shows the police waiting for them as they reluctantly climbed back over the main gate empty handed and into custody.
2. Why should schools consider future proofing their alarm systems?
Fire & Intruder alarms has long been an effective component in the school security arsenal. How does this work? However, the alarm industry is changing and innovating all the time, so it is important that schools are up to speed with those changes to ensure their school security is effective.
1. All IP alarm signalling is coming!
We are rapidly heading towards BT OpenReach’s PSTN switchover to ‘All IP’ services, which will make alarm signalling via copper wire obsolete. This will be complete by 2025, but many exchanges have issued ‘stop sell’ dates. It is worth speaking to your alarm installer to make sure your signalling equipment is future proofed.
2. Communication between ARCs and Police Control rooms is going digital
The alarm monitoring industry is innovating to offer faster and more accurate emergency services response with the introduction of ECHO (Electronic Call Handling Operations) – a digital signalling platform that allows better communication between alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) and police control rooms. As this rolls out across the UK and is adopted by more and more police forces, it is important to make sure that your alarm monitor partner is ECHO-connected.
3. Seeing is believing with Alarm Visual Verification…
There has been an exciting development in traditional alarm monitoring, with the introduction of Alarm Visual Verification which can mean an end to ‘blind’ alarms. Farsight now offers the ability to bind alarm signalling with CCTV cameras to allow security operators to see what the cause of an alarm is so response can be more accurate and can speed up blue light emergency services response times as well as help to protect URNs.
Read more: What is Alarm Visual Verification?
Get peace mind that your school security is optimised with Farsight
Farsight was wared ‘Best Security Services Provider in the UK in 2020. So, if you want the peace of mind that your school security is in safe hands this Summer, we’d love to talk… simply call us on 0354 371 0101 or drop us a line below:
Further resources to help you optimise your school or FE facility security
Of course, CCTV cameras, audio warnings and remote monitoring are only part of the security measures for schools, colleges, and universities to consider. To help, we have collated some free comprehensive security guides featuring top tips to ensure school security is optimised and maintained, especially during this period of lockdown.
We also suggest you read the following gov.uk recommended guidelines for managing security at schools & colleges in the UK: