Walking in and walking out: who’s who in a school?

There has been increasing pressure on schools to increase class sizes in recent years, but – in addition to managing the already regular stream of students, staff, parents, governors and visitors – this presents the challenge of more new faces for reception staff to recognise. Remembering every visitor’s connection to the school is near impossible and with government figures stating that 654,000 extra school places will be required by 2026 to meet the increase in pupil population, this is an issue that will only increase as time passes.
However, in a school environment, ensuring a complete record of people on site is critical; it’s an issue not just of safeguarding but of compliance. So, within a location that could span multiple buildings, with hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, how can schools keep reliable and up to the minute records of everyone on site? Relying on memory clearly isn’t an option, but the common method of using disconnected paper-based records to monitor the movements of such a large number of individuals is not only unsafe, but also in breach of GDPR.
Dan Harding, Director at Sign In App, explains how simple technology is the key to streamlining this process. By consolidating the numerous paper-based processes into one, single digital dashboard, this will not only provide peace of mind in an emergency, but also ensure regulatory compliance.
Safety and security in schools is a priority consideration for parents, staff and governing bodies, with schools holding the ultimate responsibility to know who is on site at all times and ensure that everyone remains safe. In an educational environment, there is a variety of different personnel walking on and off the premises throughout the day, from pupils to parents and staff to visitors, so it is crucial that schools practice strict safety protocols.
Schools are no strangers to practising evacuation and lockdown procedures, as guidance states that schools should undertake a fire drill at least once per term to ensure staff and pupils are familiar with evacuation protocol. But when the alarm sounds, how can the fire marshals be sure that everyone is accounted for?
In an emergency situation, time is of the essence, but with numerous separate paper-based records relied upon to inform who is on site at that time, it’s an inherently flawed process. Schools have to trust that staff members will remember to collect a number of different assets; the visitor sign in book, the staff sign in sheet, the pupil register and information about which students have left for appointments that day – what if just one of those records is left behind? The likelihood of overlooking an individual is significant, and the time it takes to ensure everyone is ticked off the list grows longer – it’s an unreliable and risky process, especially when you consider what could happen in a real emergency situation.
The solution is simple but worryingly is too often overlooked. With the advent of simple, cloud-based technology, that allows individuals to sign in via a digital visitor management device, schools can deploy a solution that can quickly provide full visibility of who is on site that day, without the need to rush around collecting numerous physical documents. Instead, evacuations can be completed as intended – in an orderly fashion – and fire marshals can be confident in the knowledge that they have one complete list of who needs to be accounted for, and crucially – no one will be forgotten.
Recording and Reporting
As part of regular inspections across the UK, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) requires schools to record and report a wide array of information to ensure schools are fulfilling their responsibilities to properly educate and care for schoolchildren. Attendance records, including absenteeism and late arrivals make up a critical part of this evaluation as an element of the personal development, behaviour and welfare judgement of pupils – failure to report could result in an ‘inadequate’ rating which schools want to avoid at all costs.
By law, every school must register pupils twice a day, but typically late attendance is recorded by a receptionist on separate, paper-based records. Furthermore, OFSTED also requires every school to monitor each governor’s attendance at governing body and committee meetings. But without a formal registration process, how can schools keep an accurate record of this?
Historically, schools have relied on traditional sign-in books to record and report which governor is on site. And this same visitor book is also used for other personnel such as facilities staff, or parents. But with GDPR in full swing, keeping this personal data at the front desk for everyone to see is no longer viable. In addition, this siloed approach to record keeping is not just time-consuming, but also notoriously unreliable – a potentially disastrous combination when it comes to OFSTED inspections.
What is required is one single, central view of this information which creates a level of interoperability that can aid the OFSTED reporting process in making information easier to access, analyse and report.
Moreover, the deployment of simple and affordable technology can help schools to streamline their safeguarding protocols. Electronic visitor management solutions – which enable visitors, late pupils and staff to sign via a tablet device upon entry – can provide schools with a single view of everyone on site. The Cloud-based technology allows for this roll call list to be accessed by appointed individuals from a mobile device, negating the need to spend precious time locating paper records and ensuring in the event of an emergency – everyone is accounted for.
Paper sign-in books are quickly becoming a thing of the past as many schools and education institutions recognise the fall backs and security issues of having personal information so readily on display. Furthermore, with class sizes steadily increasing, schools can no longer rely on such disconnected processes when it comes to the evacuation roll call – certainty is essential to effectively safeguard everyone within the school vicinity.
It’s time for schools to ditch the paperwork and instead, take advantage of the technology available to make the process not only compliant, but safer too.