It is an incredibly unfortunate fact that the risk of our schoolchildren being the victim of horrific violence is on the rise. As schools across key cities such as London and Manchester become increasingly subject to malicious threats on students’ safety, there has been an outcry of support for more policing around schools and more stringent clearance measures for anyone walking in and out of school doors.
However, it is equally important that children can learn in undisturbed, peaceful, and nurturing environments – not one that echoes the hostility of a prison. Currently, there are 8.74 million pupils in all schools across England; with that number only continuing to rise, it is vital to achieve a balance between ensuring student safety and creating a welcoming environment that is conducive to learning.
No longer are traditional security measures such as CCTV and visitor registration sufficient. With a limited number of security personnel available in schools, it is time that students and staff recognise that the power to make a difference is already at their fingertips. Through smartphones, tablets, and laptops, they can take advantage of mobile technology and work together to develop collective, real-time intel on any security risks.
By leveraging the eyes and ears of the school community, they can reduce the reaction time for first responders – a critical factor in neutralising threats and locating students during emergencies – and protect each other in times of danger.
Reinventing safety for the new generation
Some potential solutions being raised to improve school safety include measures such as hiring more security personnel and training staff to confront hostile threats. However, with 93% of children in the UK owning a smartphone, and 71% and 76% of primary and secondary schools using tablets in the classroom, we should be talking about what technology can do to protect children while they’re at school.
Every mobile phone carried by a student is networked, and most likely has GPS, a camera, and microphone. Equally, almost all schools in the UK have WiFi networks and video monitoring. Marrying these two capabilities can empower faculty and students to develop collective intelligence to inform first responders and help them become more effective, being aware of a potential threat even seconds before an incident occurs can save lives.
Through smartphones, tablets, and laptops, they can take advantage of mobile technology and work together to develop collective, real-time intel on any security risks.
Whether it’s a bullying incident or intruder threat, students can soon report hostile events to both authorities and faculty at the push of a button. By using their mobile cameras to take photos or live-stream videos from school safety apps, students can provide officers with critical, time-sensitive details before arriving on scene. Moreover, they will be able to report such events anonymously; helping to protect their identity if they need to disclose any wrongdoings conducted by their peers.
Built-in geolocation and geofencing mobile technology can also help control high-risk areas. By accessing students’ locations in real-time, staff can send location-based notifications and directions on where to go for safety, whether children are in school, or away on a field trip. Additionally, trapped schoolchildren can notify responders of their location for rescue, while staff can use map-based text broadcasts to tell students to leave specific areas.
Most importantly, social media can be leveraged to track any potential or emerging safety concerns. Social analytics can be used to generate heat maps of real-time keyword searches, helping responders prepare for any potentially upcoming threats.
The student voice
By combining mobile apps and existing security systems (for example, CCTV), schools can develop a universal dashboard that provides them with a full view of school safety. However, today’s mobile apps for safety and communication in schools are largely in the testing stage, with first iterations being developed from all the way across the pond.
As such, it is important to gain feedback from the very people who will be using it: students. Involving students in the customisation of the app will ensure it is suited exactly to the school’s demographic, and help minimise the possibility of any missteps in development.
Security is essential to protecting students’ lives and their education. By exploring the potential of mobile app technologies, schools can reinvent emergency response procedures when disaster strikes, and help students, staff, and responders, protect each other in times of need.