Guide to security for UK schools


Every school in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that its premises are safe for pupils, staff and visitors. While serious security breaches of the likes seen in the United States are thankfully rare, schools here have a responsibility to implement a clear and detailed security policy that safeguards anyone coming on the grounds.

To this end, the UK Government has created a dedicated advice page specifying the actions schools need to take when it comes to matters of security. This includes a link to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) which details a school, college, or university’s legal obligations to ensure the wellbeing of those on its premises.

Here, we’ve taken a look at some of the bigger security threats faced by schools today and what steps can be taken to reduce the risk.


  1. Trespassers

 There are many ways that schools can be impacted by trespassing, from pupils trying to access the site during the school holidays, to would-be criminals with an eye on stealing computer equipment, vehicles and other assets, and unwanted visitors pitching up on a school field or other outdoor area.

This all means that controlling access points – both to buildings and external grounds – and using security measures that will deter someone from trying to gain access to the site, all need to be high on the priority list.

School sites will typically have multiple access points that need to be open at key times throughout the day during term time, for example for parents to drop off their children. But this can further increase the risk of unwanted visitors gaining access to the site and potentially buildings. Some UK school grounds are even considered a public right of way, which increases the risk of unauthorised persons attempting to enter.


  1. Violence

Schools are one of the most high risk places for experiencing occupational violence in the UK, according to Violence at Work: a Guide for Employers, a report produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This was further supported by the 2019/20 Crime Survey for England and Wales, which showed that out of 25 occupational environments, teachers and support staff ranked 6th for risk of violence at work.

In a survey of 4,700 education professionals conducted by the teacher’s union NASUWT in April 2021, 6% of teachers admitted to having been physically assaulted by a pupil, while 1 in 10 said they had received violent threats. The types of volent incidents recorded in schools in the UK ranging from physical assaults on teachers by pupils, to verbal threats and abuse to staff from parents.

Knife crime is also becoming a heightened risk to those working and studying in UK schools. Churchill reports that over 45,000 10-17 year olds were sentenced for carrying a knife in England and Wales in 2019, 1000 of which were seized on school property. Weapons recovered from schools during this period were said to include machetes, hunting knives, and samurai swords, with the youngest offender aged just four years old.


  1. Vandalism and arson

Vandalism is yet another of the most common security threats impacting UK schools, with malicious damage to school property becoming an increasingly common issue.

A Google search for “vandalism in schools UK 2022” throws up over 1,580,000 results, page one of which alone paints a grim picture of the damage schools are experiencing at the hands of vandals.

Recent episodes of vandalism in UK schools include 60 windows being smashed at Elmgrove Primary school in Belfast, up to 100 newly planted trees being ripped up at a primary school in Tavistock, and £3000 worth of damage caused by vandals at Mendip Green school in Weston.

These incidents all occurred overnight, outside of school hours, with drug paraphernalia also found at the Tavistock primary school, and fences destroyed at Mendip Green.


  1. Theft and burglary

Burglary and theft are another common threat. 

As with incidences of vandalism, school burglaries commonly occur overnight under the cover of darkness when the premises are empty. As well as laptops and machinery, school vehicles are something often targeted by thieves, with a minibus and an all-terrain vehicle among the items stolen from schools in break-ins in Lancashire and Dorset recently.

Cash is yet another temptation of criminals who set their sights on schools, with a recent break-in at Eggar's School near Alton resulting in thieves making off with £1000 from a kitchen safe. Sadly, many schools that experience a break-in once are also likely to be targeted again, as was the case with a primary school in Poole, which found itself twice burgled in the same week.


What can schools do to improve security? 

Schools and other educational facilities in the UK have a legal duty of care to their pupils and employees which must include a policy that outlines all on site security provisions, and a response plan in the event of a serious security incident.

This policy, together with any related security measures that are put in place, must be undertaken by a competent person who is qualified to advise on security matters.

If your school doesn’t currently have an up-to-date security policy and incident plan in place, or your existing policy hasn’t been devised by a competent party, it’s important to get this rectified. Failure to be able to produce this documentation on request could be considered a breach of your legal responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.


Popular security measures

The best way to assess your security and ensure the policies and procedures you have in place are up to scratch is by consulting with a specialist security provider. They can carry out a full onsite inspection of your school to determine your security weak points and recommend effective next steps for bolstering your security both in and out of hours.

Popular security measures for schools include: 

  • Key holding and alarm response – This is where an external security company holds a set of keys and attends the school site in the case of an alarm activation that needs investigation. This takes responsibility off staff members who may otherwise need to attend, at any hour of the night, putting them at potential risk. The security officers attending will be trained and experienced in dealing with whatever they are faced with, including crime scene preservation, and will liaise with the police where intruders are still on site. A quick response time also limits the window of opportunity for theft or damage. At Venture, our company-wide average is just 22 minutes.


  • Mobile patrols – The presence of a trained security officer on the premises at random times throughout the night and at weekends can be a great deterrent for would-be criminals. Officers attending can also look out for any security issues, such as doors and windows that have been left unsecured, and can also spot maintenance issues, such as burst water pipes, meaning they can be acted on quickly and the potential damage is limited.


  • Locks and unlocks – Rather than having staff members responsible for unlocking and securing the school premises each day, an external security provider can hold a set of keys and attend the site as required. This ensures nothing is ever missed, such as windows left unlocked and other security weak spots. It also relieves the issue of lone worker safety which can occur when a staff member is alone on site. Schools can find this service particularly helpful for managing access for external visitors, who may use the school site for a private event.


  • Onsite security guards – For some schools, having one or more security guard on site full time may be a preference. A static guard can offer support in key areas of the school at the key times, working closely alongside the facilities manager.


Using an external security provider

For any external security support you receive, ensure that officers are SIA licensed, as this is a legal requirement of all security personnel working in the UK security sector. They should also be Enhanced DBS checked if working on a school site.

If you’re currently using an external security provider, we advise carrying out spot checks to ensure the correct certifications are held. There have been many high profile cases of security companies not meeting their obligations, for example: Guilty verdict for boss who supplied unlicensed security to school and Wiltshire security firm caught providing school with unlicensed guards.


Supporting schools across Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Surrey

 At Venture, we work with local councils, schools, and businesses to offer flexible security services within the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Surrey. We are experienced in providing security for schools in the UK, as well as supporting local authorities, helping ensure sites are safe and secure.

To engage one of our specialist team to conduct an onsite security assessment at your school, or to contract any of our security services, please contact us using or call 01264 391538.