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My 6 Year Old DS Escaped From School - Security Is Very Poor

(27 Posts)
KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Thu 14-Feb-13 20:33:36

After dropping off my ds at his primary school recently one morning, I was about to drive back home, when I noticed a flash of orange (the colour of his coat) tear past. My mind couldn't quite accept that it might be him, because only a couple of minutes before that I had literally seen him through the door in to the school. (I also wait and wave whilst he walks down a little corridor). I must point out that absolutely no one was manning the door.

I got out of my car, crossed a fairly busy road back on to the school premises to see him crying and being led back by some older children from the High School near by. He had covered a distance of approx. 130 yards, and very luckily had not actually crossed the road to get to my car.

I spoke to his teacher, who is quite senior, I think her title is Younger Years Co-ordinator, or something very similar, and to cut a very long story short, she seemed to take the matter very seriously in that potentially he could have ran across the road and been seriously hurt or killed (there are a lot of cars and busses at that time in the morning). She assured me that a new procedure would be put in place.

My concern is that this happened approx. 4 weeks ago and absolutely nothing has changed in terms of security. It is very very poor, in that say 5 times out of 10 the door is not manned at all, or the TA whose job it is, sometimes wonders off to deal with something else!

My son has proved that this can happen, because he did it. If he can do it, then potentially it could happen again, and next time a child could be killed. He is 6 year's old and I never would have thought in a million years that he would do something like this, but he did, because he could. I look at these little 4 year olds who are also very capable of taking flight, trying to go after their mummies because they are upset.

Also it was mentioned in their Ofsted report last year (not by me) that morning security is very weak,

Would you write a formal letter to the Head? I don't want to cause any ill feeling, but I am very concerned that this could happen to another child one day and it could be a lot more serious.

I feel that I can't let it drop, or am I being precious and unrealistic?

I am sorry to have rambled on and on, but I would really appreciate any of your comments and if any of you have had a similar experience.

Thanking you in advance.

socharlottet Sun 17-Feb-13 11:07:14

At our school neither the gates or doors are manned and all wide open til about 9.15.I have never heard of a child doing a runner though.When they get to school they sit in their place and start their work, usually handwriting practice, whilst everyone else arrives.

TheSeniorWrangler Sat 16-Feb-13 22:02:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Sat 16-Feb-13 19:33:58

Thank you for your very logical comments.
I am in total agreement.

admission Sat 16-Feb-13 18:58:23

The school has a clear duty of care to their pupils. Security is always an issue and either the school needs to ensure that nobody can get to any of the classrooms by having all outside doors locked such that they cannot be opened from the outside, other than the main entrance or they have to have a secure perimeter. As most schools were not built for security the usual option is to go for secure doors plus as much common sense as possible with gates.
Common sense would say being able to deliver stuff to children all morning through a side entrance is not secure. Common sense would say that at playtime you can never stop a pupil doing a runner but that the gates are shut and that staff are on duty in the playground.
There has to be a sense of realism in this and each school looked at carefully in its own rights but this does not sound like a very secure site.

LeeCoakley Sat 16-Feb-13 17:05:40

Smile, in our school anyone can enter the site unseen! I've even asked for signs to be put up 'Please shut the gate' on each gate but it's been pooh-poohed. You enter the site and can go left or right. Left takes you to the main building where reception is and right takes you through another gate where there is a bike park and waiting area for am and pm nursery mums. You can then go through another gate to the main playground and canteen. Parents come here all hours of the morning to drop lunch boxes off. Why they aren't made to leave them in the office I don't know. So all morning there is people traffic that doesn't require a visit to the main building. Because we obviously haven't got a dedicated gate-keeper we rely on the common-sense of parents and has been proven there are a lot who haven't got any.
I blame the HT entirely for not making it a priority every term to instil into everyone who uses the site to shut every gate!
Regarding strangers entering the site, well that is ridiculous because these gates aren't locked, there are only bolts on them. Anybody who wanted to snatch a child during playtime could do it quite easily. They just come into the playground on the pretext of dropping something off in the canteen.
We have all sorts of inspections but security has never been raised as an issue and I'm not sure why.

SmileAndPeopleSmileWithYou Sat 16-Feb-13 16:40:05

Good Luck! I'm sure you won't need it though as your concerns seem pretty reasonable to me!

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Sat 16-Feb-13 15:28:56

Thanks for your post.
Your school sounds streets and streets ahead in terms of safety.

In light of what happened with my son (which was totally out of character), I feel that the next step is for me to write to the Headmaster. I honestly don't think anything will change - they had what could have potentially been a very serious incident and security is still utterly inconsistent.

I will update once I have a reply.

SmileAndPeopleSmileWithYou Sat 16-Feb-13 12:24:28

I'm actually surprised that some schools leave the gate-shutting to the parents! As someone previously said, fire doors have to be left unlocked by law so any child could get out into the school grounds, the grounds need to be secure during school hours.

Our school has a procedure where parents are responsible for children until the school bell goes. All children line up and teachers collect their class.
At the end of the day teachers have to hand over to parents or a known adult. During this time the school gates are open.
As soon as the classes have gone into school the caretaker locks the gates and they stay locked until home time. (any latecomers have to go through the school office).

We have various children with SEN and behaviour difficulties who regularly attempt escape. They can always get out of the building but they can never get out of the grounds.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Fri 15-Feb-13 23:11:14

Thanks for your comments.
It is a very nice school and my son is very happy there, but this really does concern me. It's out in the sticks, so maybe there is a false sense of security, or just plain ignorance.

Yep, that sort of thing always happens somewhere else doesn't it!!

If they had someone on the door, it could hopefully be shut in time to at least make that important call to the police. They are as vulnerable as sitting ducks most mornings.

LindyHemming Fri 15-Feb-13 21:47:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

narmada Fri 15-Feb-13 21:44:21

We had this at our school -an escapee - and they took immediate action. Flyers in every bag stating need to shut school gate when entering and leaving, revised pick-up and drop-off times, head teacher or another member of the senior management team stationed by inner gate to stop backward escapees every morning.

TBH if action is not taken I would be slightly worried about the school management = especially if this is something they have been warned about before. Are you happy with the school apart from this issue?

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Fri 15-Feb-13 19:26:33

I am in agreement with you that a school cannot realistically ensure total security at all times. Where this school falls down in my opinion is that in the morning the main entrance door is left wide open and very often say 5 times out of 10 without a member of staff being present at all - ie. anyone could walk in and anyone could escape, as my son did recently when he was very upset and came hurtling (130 yards) after me undetected, luckily not crossing a busy road where my car was parked.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Fri 15-Feb-13 19:12:43

Thank you for your comments.

The morning drop off procedure is extremely lax in that all children go through a door which is wide open between 8.30am to 8.55am. This door should be manned by a member of staff, but very often is NOT. Anybody could get in, or like my son did when he was very upset, take flight and get out with nobody noticing! Funny enough at home time the parent handover is quite strict as in your school.
You mention three gates between the road and the playground being left open by parents - tbh it just renders me speechless!!! Your HT needs to address this before something dangerous happens.
Our school is very rural with a lot of land, and therefore no security fences or gates whatsoever.

slambang Fri 15-Feb-13 16:58:55

That must have been terrifying for you, Cool, but (genuine question) how could a school ensure total security?

Due to fire risk there must be easily openable doors throughout the school all day long. Due to funding there cannot possibly be a member of staff manning every door all day. Playground gates must be kept unlocked at morning and afternoon drop off.pick up times. Unless your dc is a known flight risk it is unrealisitc to expect one to one supervision from a member of staff.

So, at morning drop off times with hundreds of people coming in and out of the playground and the doors opening and shutting, what can a school do to make it impossible for your dc to repeat this?

LeeCoakley Fri 15-Feb-13 16:36:40

You say 'drop off'. Does that mean you don't hand your infant child over to his class teacher? Does this happen in a lot of schools? In our school it is the parents' responsibility until the child walks through the classroom door. Parents (should) watch the child walk into the classroom, past the teacher at the door who will acknowledge the child and only then do parents relinquish responsibility to the school. This happens in reverse at home time. The teacher hands over the children to a known adult otherwise the child is not allowed to leave the school building.
Having said that our school grounds are not secure in any way, shape or form. If we had a runner during the day they could easily escape. There are three gates between the road and the playground and parents leave them all open! This is especially bad during the hour when the morning nursery finishes and the afternoon one starts. I wish the HT would write a firm letter!

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Thu 14-Feb-13 21:58:53

Sorry missed you - my thread was so long!

Yes, good point about Ofsted - I will mention that point. Yes, the teenagers were lovely to him.

The horrible thing about this, is that I do like to keep a low profile and don't want to be seen as a trouble-maker, but unfortunately I have no choice, because one day it could happen again.

mercibucket Thu 14-Feb-13 21:44:54

we don't always have a ta on the door to the cloakroom, but the nursery and reception children are taken directly in to class and so are unable to escape
they need a procedure for your child imo, i know other people who had to do that. so he is taken directly to class and only once the teacher is there.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Thu 14-Feb-13 21:41:07

Thank you for letting me know that.

I expected my son's school to do the same as yours, and that's why I am so flabbergasted that they haven't taken this seriously at all.

ChristmasJubilee Thu 14-Feb-13 21:36:43

Our school lock the security gates once the children are in and all visitors have to ring the bell to go through the main entrance. This stops people wandering in and out but, realistically would not stop anyone determined to get in.

I don't think anyone can completely trust that their child would always do as they are told but we have been very clear in our instructions to ds, he has always followed them and I would be surprised if he didn't.

We don't have anyone manning the school gates. I suppose if parents were worried that their child might come out again they would have to stand at the gate until the bell rings and the children go into the classroom and likewise at home time, would need to be at the gate in plenty of time and watch for them coming out.

A good few of ds's classmates walk or cycle home alone now. I think I am considered a bit precious to collect him or have him collected at the gate!

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Thu 14-Feb-13 21:23:53

Another point, which I think is very relevant is that he took flight because he was very upset about something - ie. it wasn't out of naughtiness or being high-spirited. He is usually very good and does listen to me (most of the time!).

When a child is very upset, all rational can get completely blown away, and I liken this incident it to a fright and flight situation which was totally out of character for him. That's why I say you can never be 100% sure, maybe 99% if you are very lucky.

Ineedmorepatience Thu 14-Feb-13 21:19:38

This happened to me when my youngest started school, she ran after me and someone grabbed her before she crossed the road.

I didnt need to complain, the staff were mortified. After that a TA greeted her at the door everyday and ensured that neither she nor any other child could escape again.

You need to go back and speak to the Headteacher. Follow up any conversations with a letter.

Glad your Ds wasnt hurt.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Thu 14-Feb-13 21:10:26

breatheslowly & Hassled - You have given me encouragement to write to the Head - thank you!!

Yes, I have spoken to him about it, but now that he has done it, I cannot rest easy that he won't do it again. I don't think he will, but I can NEVER be 100% sure. Can you really be sure that your Ds3 who is also 6 year's old will always conform to your instructions 100% of the time?

I think the point here really is if he can do it because it is unmanned a lot of the time, what about a 4 year old? Would you expect a 4 year old to conform like your Ds3?

Also importantly, what about an undesirable getting in to the school? The school would simple not stand a chance.

ChristmasJubilee Thu 14-Feb-13 20:54:37

I think you need to tell your ds that once you put him in the school gate he is not to come back out of it again. If he does I think you need to come down really hard on him. He is 6 and should be able to understand this.

Ds3 is 6 and dropped at the back gate of the school. He knows that he must not leave the school after this. If he has forgotten anything he must tell a teacher. He waits at the back gate to be collected at home time and, again, knows not to go out the gate and if no one comes to get him he should go to the after school club and ask them to phone us.

Hassled Thu 14-Feb-13 20:53:10

You're not being precious or unrealistic at all - it must have been terrifying for you and yes, from what you say it could happen again.

breatheslowly Thu 14-Feb-13 20:50:46

Definitely write and if you don't get a satisfactory response then escalate it to the chair of governors.

You rightly can't let it drop because you will feel terrible if something happened to a child and you think "if only I had followed this up".

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