Our schools have a responsibility for students that goes well beyond teaching and learning. Issues of safety and security are front and centre for teachers and school leaders.

All schools have plans for managing emergency situations. Included are procedures for response to cyclones and fires. Some have lockdown procedures. Awareness of plans and the reason for their need is discussed with students. When children know why emergency plans are important, concerns about their existence are eliminated.

Things have changed

As we entered the 21st century, few of our schools were barricaded from the community by fences and gates. This has changed and to the point where most schools are behind barricades which discourage unlawful entry. Perimeter fences have become the norm. Many schools have second layers of tougher fencing encircling buildings and facilities.

Security systems have been installed in most schools during recent years. These are switched after hours, at weekends and holiday times to security firms, enabling a quick response in the event of break-ins. Schools are under survelliance on a 24/7 basis. In more and more schools, this form of security now includes monitoring by CCTV cameras and sophisticated survelliance devices.

Caretakers and janitors have responsibility for opening gates and buildings in the mornings, then locking them after hours. Arming and disarming security systems is part of their responsibility.

For the first time there were bomb scares in NT schools in recent months. Threats were handled professionally and maturely by schools and the Department. Importantly, there was no panic among students or staff. Responsible reporting and management minimised undue parental concern. This threat may now be the number one concern for schools.

Last week it was reported (James Tomkinson, The Conversation) that bomb threats during the second week of May, were directed at 85 schools in the UK and USA. He reported that ” the schools were evacuated, resulting in panic and disruption for staff and students.”

This type of threat seems to becoming more common-place. It is to the credit of our department and school councils that planning for the management of disruption and threat is an uppermost priority. Where possible, fire drills and other rehearsals are carried out. These familiarises all concerned with understanding of what needs to be done if emergencies arise.

Many schools now have SMS contact with parents, allowing group messages to be sent in the case of emergency. This also helps in the case of urgency contact with individual parents.

It would be foolish to suggest that mishaps and emergencies never occur. However, the safety and security precautions school have in place, together with their ability to make immediate contact with parents, should be reassuring.


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