Is your school fence dangerous?

The fencing and gates surrounding your school are an introduction to your organisation in more ways than one. Alongside being the physical entrance to your school, they’re also the first thing many parents or prospective students will see.

A secure, welcoming environment can go a long way to building parent and pupil trust. On the other hand, fencing that’s been vandalised, looks in disrepair or appears too easy to breach communicates a less positive message.

The quality of your fencing is important, not just to the safety of your students and property, but also to perceptions of your school. However, simply installing a secure fence isn’t enough. Any fence you install must be maintained regularly to ensure it continues to protect the school, but also checked to ensure it doesn’t endanger any pupils or staff in close contact with it.

So far, so obvious, but what should you look out for when checking whether your fencing is safe and secure?

Walk the perimeter

Many of the more obvious safety risks can be identified by simply walking the perimeter of your site. A few things to look for are:

  • Loose material – There is any number of seemingly innocuous things that can cause harm. Check for sharp edges – such as peeling paint and splinters – knots in timber that could trap students' fingers and foreign objects like cans or packaging stuck in the fence.
  • Additional features – Is there anything attached to the fence that could pose a risk? For example, does any attached lighting have dangerous dangling cables? Or have signs been cable-tied to the fence, creating a potential arm trap?
  • Climbing aids – Kids love to climb, whether it’s to retrieve lost balls or just for the adventure. So make sure bins or play equipment are stored away from the fence to stop people climbing in or out of the school.
  • Natural hazards – Take a look at what’s growing near the fence. Thorny plants growing through it can pose a safety risk, as can any overgrown or leaning trees pushing down on the fence.
  • Instability – Give the fence a push to check its structural integrity and look for any slighting leaning inwards or outwards. The fence may look fine, but a bad installation or shifting foundations could pose a danger, especially if a pupil tries to climb.
  • Access points

    The next thing to check is any access points to your site. First, do you have separate vehicle and pedestrian access points? It’s essential any vehicles entering or leaving the building are not using the same access points as the children. If this isn’t possible, consider implementing restricted times for vehicles to enter; before the school day or during lesson times.

    In addition, it’s worth checking the gates themselves. Are they clearly signposted, with warnings for pupils and visitors alike? Are gate locks secure? And, if your school uses automated, gates have they been installed by a reputable professional and regularly maintained? Improperly calibrated gates can pose a huge safety risk.

    Mental health concerns

    We generally think of a dangerous fence as something that could physically hurt a pupil. However, as mental health awareness has increased, so too have the designs of fencing. To give an example, tall, rusty chain-link fence could create a prison-like atmosphere, presenting the school as a place of fear rather than a safe, nurturing environment, and causing unnecessary mental distress.

    Noise control

    Thanks to research from bodies like the World Health Organisation, we now know that noise pollution is much more than an environmental hazard. Noise pollution can also impact mental health, as well as disrupting learning and playtime. If your school is close to a busy road and has a traditional open fence, it may be worth considering replacing it with an acoustic fence to block harmful sound.

    Privacy

    Pupils’ wellbeing isn’t just impacted by what goes on within the school grounds. If your school is on a major thoroughfare or in a densely populated area, students are also at risk from passers-by. To prevent this, it’s worth upgrading your fence to something that provides students with privacy and stops outside contact. A great example of this is our own EuroGuard® Combi range, featuring a flat- facing surface with no hand or footholds for enhanced security, and closely spaced slats for added privacy.

    Playgrounds

    Last, check the fencing surrounding any playgrounds at your school. Does it include anti-trap properties such as bow-top fencing? Do any gates include soft-close features to prevent injury from slamming?

    Look out for RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) approved designs when purchasing new fencing. And, remember the importance of aesthetics. Bright, welcoming colours and designs can help improve mental health and wellbeing.

    The measures we’ve listed are a great place to start, but identifying and mitigating every hazard can be tricky. So, if you’re considering the safety of your school, why not enlist a professional? Contact us today and we’ll talk you through how to improve the safety and wellbeing of your students and staff.

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