With the recent reports of criminal damage caused during protests from a TikTok trend encouraging children to protest about shuttered toilets during lesson times and protests against phone camera usage happening in toilets; this blog looks through what security systems are permissible in a school setting and how they should be used.
It’s important to always protect staff and property, when circumstances arise such as this situation.
The recent protests have seen schools being vandalised, property within the school being damaged beyond repair and staff who have been injured during the protests. Whilst many schools have communicated with parents on facility usage to try to abate any protests happening at this site it doesn’t negate the need to assess your school’s security.
The first question might be ‘what security systems can be used in a school?’
When was the last time a check was undertaken to ensure that you have all of the appropriate security measures in place? And more importantly are you aware of all of the security systems there are available to use within your school, like:
- CCTV (closed-circuit television) systems: These can help monitor school premises during the school day. They can also help deter theft, vandalism, and other criminal activity when the children have left or holidays start. It’s important to use CCTV cameras in the places where there might be blind spots or vulnerable areas.
- Access control systems: These can help restrict access to certain areas of the school, such as classrooms, offices, and storage rooms. This can help prevent unauthorized entry and keep students and staff safe. There are many types of systems from basic keypad door entry systems to data gathering door access control. They can be installed on external doors and internal, every access control system JKE installs is fully safe when it comes to releasing for fire alarms for example.
- Intruder alarms: These can alert school SLT, the authorities (like your LEA or MAT) and the police in case of a break-in or other security breach. Typically intruder alarms are very useful for out of hours, like the nights and school holidays.
- Panic alarms: These can be installed in classrooms, offices, school halls and other areas of the school to alert head teachers, deputy heads and other relevant staff members in case of an emergency. They are particularly useful for things like a medical emergency, a behaving child, or a violent incident.
- Intercom systems: These can help staff communicate with students (and other staff) in case of an emergency or for other important announcements. They can be installed across the school with both internal and external speakers available depending on the coverage required.
It’s important to note that security systems should be installed in accordance with the UK’s data protection laws and regulations. Schools should also consider the ethical implications of surveillance systems and ensure they are used in a responsible and appropriate manner.
One question that needs to be addressed is ‘Can schools put CCTV in toilets?’
In general, the use of CCTV in school toilets is not recommended and is likely to be considered a breach of privacy. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is responsible for enforcing data protection laws in the UK, states that the use of CCTV in areas where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as toilets and changing rooms, is highly intrusive and should be avoided.
That said if your school is experiencing high levels of bullying, misbehaviour or violence these could be considered as situations where CCTV may be considered necessary. For example, in toilets if there is substantial evidence of serious violence, ongoing serious issues or persistent vandalism. The other example is obviously what some of the rioting is about – unisex toilets where photography of pupils is reportedly occurring. However, in these cases, any CCTV system should be installed in a way that minimizes intrusion on privacy, which means the coverage you are likely to get is not going to provide good footage and students are likely to see the blind spots. One other consideration is that this could cause more reaction from your students and result in protests much like is being seen posted all over TikTok.
In summary, while there may be some limited circumstances where CCTV in toilets could be considered, it is generally not recommended, and schools should proceed with caution and consult with relevant authorities such as the ICO before making any decisions.
Can CCTV images be used to manage and prove behaviour in schools?
Yes, CCTV images can be used to help address and prevent bad behaviour in schools. CCTV can be a useful tool for schools to monitor and deter incidents of bullying, vandalism, theft, and other undesirable behaviours.
Perhaps you are thinking you need to ‘prove’ to parents or carers situations that arise with their child, this could be a breach in data protection so is advised to proceed with caution. As staff you can share your CCTV footage, especially in an incident where the senior leadership team need to be involved due to the severity of the occasion.
It’s vitally important that schools ensure that their use of CCTV is in compliance with the UK’s data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. Schools should only use CCTV for specific and legitimate purposes, and they must provide clear and transparent information to students and staff about the purpose, scope, and duration of the CCTV monitoring.
In addition, schools should implement appropriate security measures to ensure that the CCTV footage is stored securely and access to it is restricted to authorized personnel only. Schools should also have clear policies in place on how the CCTV footage will be used and who has access to it. It may be that you need to upload this policy in accordance with Ofsted’s requirements for how you display other policies for your school.
It is also important for schools to balance the benefits of CCTV with the potential impact on privacy and individual rights. In the instance of the protesting that has just occurred, where security systems are in place these could be used to address the issues that arise however police and other authorities can only use your footage in accordance with the laws and legislation of the land. With good access control though you might be able to shut down your school quickly to prevent ingress into your buildings with the right system in place.
If you’d like a survey of your school please get in touch with JKE Fire & Security via email (email@example.com) or call us on 0800 2545645.
📸 Images are from The Mirror and TikTok as reported on various news channels