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Ant Telecom: Dangerous liaisons in schools

OpinionSecondary Education
By Heather McLean | 17 May 2017
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Create DateMay 17, 2017
Last UpdatedMay 17, 2017

By Klaus Allion, MD at Ant Telecom.

The statistics are hard hitting. In 2014 and 2015, almost a quarter (24%) of permanent and fixed period exclusions in English schools were due to physical assaults, 36% of which were against adults [Department of Education, July 2016]. Almost a third (32%) of permanent exclusions in primary schools were for assaults against adults. It’s even worse in special schools (33%).

The problem though is not restricted to England. Earlier this year, a primary school head teacher in Scotland was left ‘bloodied and hospitalised’ after a violent assault by a pupil. It was just the latest of almost 10,000 similar incidents north of the border in the past three years.

Protecting staff

In 2014, 57% of all staff in British state schools had faced aggression from a student in the previous year, with 45% of it taking the form of physical violence [ALT, 2014], with 70% stating they had been threatened. Last year, it was revealed that 53% of teaching assistants had experienced violence in the classroom [UNISON, 2016], with respondents claiming to have been kicked, punched, slapped and headbutted by children. It’s therefore all the more worrying that many schools have sub-optimal processes in place to alert colleagues to an incident and escalate a response.

So how are schools faring in their attempts to assure staff safety? In the words of the clichéd school report, they could do better. A high number of educational institutions still use the school bell as an alert mechanism. This does nothing to help third parties locate an incident, while the sudden sound of an alarm can send confusion and potential panic within the school. Similarly, many schools believe that conventional mobile phones provide an effective solution. This assumes that in the heat of a tense situation, a colleague has the time and opportunity to make an emergency call. But who do they call? And what happens if no one answers? In either scenario, staff can be horribly exposed.

Panic buttons

Thankfully, today’s connective technologies mean that modern panic buttons offer much more functionality than a basic alert; they can automate a range of actions to escalate a response quickly and discreetly. When pressed – often via an app on a user’s smartphone – a panic button not only triggers an alert to notify colleagues of a developing incident, it reports the details of who triggered it and their location.

The most effective tools can activate live audio recordings that allow colleagues to listen in and assess what course of action is required, in real time. These recordings are also invaluable for post-incident assessment. Finally, to underpin the approach, panic button technology can capture a real-time log of activity to satisfy audit requirements and demonstrate to staff that their safety is a priority.

Historically, many schools have been reluctant to invest in such technology due to common misconceptions around cost. However, since these tools are managed in the cloud, deployment is relatively inexpensive; with the main infrastructure already built, schools are not required to pay full scale development and implementation costs, they simply need to tailor their escalation processes to suit local requirements and standard operating procedures. Calculations show that it costs as little as a daily newspaper to protect staff. The price of failure is far more expensive.

ANT Telecom provides tailored, integrated solutions making business processes more efficient and improving productivity for a justifiable investment.


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