4th June 2019
Playground Fence – The Hot Topic; is there a playground fence standard?
Before we start let us get one thing straight, OFSTED does not specify a playground fence system for schools, universities or even nursery schools… In its latest draft school security advice to School Leaders, School Staff, Governing Bodies and Local Authorities the Department for Education covers over just one paragraph on estate management from a security perspective.
There are many out there who will tell you that a fence has to be this or that because OFSTED say so; and sadly, people will follow this advice blindly. But actually, the advice that the DoE gives does cover some important areas when it comes to school security. They state:
‘In particular, understanding and making best use of the school estate can improve its security. A well-maintained estate can act as a visible deterrent and underpin risk prevention plans. For example, having good access controls and effective physical security measures such as security lighting will make it harder for an intruder to infiltrate school buildings or premises.’
If we start to dissect that statement some of the key areas that are highlighted include ‘Well-maintained’, ‘Good Access Control’ and ‘Effective Physical Security Measures’. These three become the enablers to achieve the risk prevention plans. From a playground fence perspective, they are almost the basis for a standard; so why hasn’t the Department for Education just come out and said we think you should all have a 2m high 358 Mesh Fencing Systems with Swing and Sliding Gates where required?
The reason is what a school wants to achieve… risk prevention. For schools, perimeter protection falls as much under security as it does Health and Safety. Does a school from a small village in the middle of the Cotswolds have the same security risks as say a school in the centre of London? From a risk plan you will have less chance in the Cotswolds of interaction with outside influences purely down to the reduced population in the area. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen but if you considered foot fall past the playground it would undoubtable be hugely reduced per hour or even more so per minute than the London school. That means that other protection and monitoring systems can be deployed; ranging from staff on breaktimes to CCTV systems that monitor the active perimeter when there is a chance of risk.
As such would they require the same playground fence in the Cotswolds as in London? No is the simple answer; but also, would the fence fit in with the area of deployment as well? Could say a lower height level; more aesthetically pleasing fencing system be used with say natural defences planted along to give protection? Well if the perimeter can offer a tangible risk reduction and fit in with the design and aspects of the playground and general area than you have achieved the risk prevention plan.
How can you then have a playground fence standard; when in affect, you have at the very least two completely different estates with different risks. Add to this advice from agencies such as the Counter-terrorism Police on Protecting Crowded Spaces; of which Schools are one, and define exterior screening for example and we are back to the start.
The Hot Topic looks at if there is a standard; maybe the question should be should there be one? If you are specifying a playground fence; you need to be the person that sets the standard against the risks. The Department for Education outlines this as the following:
‘In determining the type of preventative action to be taken, a school should keep in mind that any measures put in place should be proportionate to the type of threat when assessed alongside the likelihood of it occurring and the impact that it would have on school life. Where significant risk is identified a school should review its existing measures and where necessary update them.’ They also state that ‘As with Health and Safety procedures it is important to keep security plans and risk assessments up to date and under review, so any emerging issues can be risk assessed early and plans updated.”
The market offers a wealth of options for playground fencing, speak with the manufacturers; speak with the installers and security consultants; look at standards such as LPS 1175 that outline delay; seek advice and review it. That way each and every school has the ability to migrate their risks in a way that doesn’t require one answer but a catalogue of solutions to each and every problem.