Lone worker safety in schools is often overlooked. This blog will give tips and hints on how to protect school staff who work alone, whatever their role.
This week is the week most school staff and pupils dread; back to school week. Up and down the land, school staff are dusting off their long-discarded ties and sensible shoes and steeling themselves for the next 6, 7, or 8 weeks until half term.
Keeping themselves safe is often the last things on their minds as they prepare for what is undoubtedly a busy half term.
But school staff, especially teachers, are often lone workers-working without direct supervision. Yes, they are surrounded by children but if they should be attacked, injured, or suddenly ill they would find it hard to summon aid or assistance.
Why Is Lone Worker Safety In Schools An Issue?
Secondary schools and colleges are a perfect storm of hazards and unpredictability that make lone worker safety in schools vitally important.
Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of teenagers are concentrated in one place. Each and every one has their own set of challenges and circumstances that are often unknown to staff. This can leave them vulnerable to outbursts and impulsive behaviour as they learn to manage their emotions and navigate new social situations.
Many students become frustrated with the rules, expectations, and mental challenge education brings, which often results in them taking their frustrations out on the school staff.
Parents are also responsible for aggression towards school staff. Meetings often take place in rooms with closed doors and out of school hours when fewer people are around. This can leave teaching staff and management extremely vulnerable to violence and aggression.
Violence Against Classroom Staff In Schools
TES released statistics in 2018 that stated that between 2009 and 2015, an average of 8000 school staff were attacked every year.
The report found that secondary school staff are three times more likely to face violence at work than any other type of worker in the UK. This makes the fact that almost all of them are lone working throughout the day even more terrifying.
Indeed, teaching assistants were found to face significant aggression. A 2016 UNISON survey found that 53% of teaching assistants have experienced some form of physical violence at school, 53% have been subjected to verbal threats, and 60% have experienced verbal abuse. Unsurprisingly, 98% of the violent abuse came from pupils, but the remaining 2% came from the parents. Parents were responsible for a shocking 30% of verbal abuse towards classroom assistants.
Teachers were also facing large levels of aggression, with 9 in 10 reporting they had faced some form of physical or verbal abuse in 2018/19.
This has led many of them stating that it made them not want to continue in their role. It is no secret that the number and quality of teaching staff is declining, which is undoubtedly going to have an impact on the economy and workforce of the future.
Risk Profile Of Lone Workers In Schools
The graphic below details sme of the risks faced by the different roles in schools. The darker the colour, the higher the risk.
Protecting Lone Workers In Schools
The first step all schools should take to protecting their lone workers is to carry out a thorough lone worker risk assessment. This is the same as a normal risk assessment, but you are specifically looking at the risk profile of all the various lone workers in school.
Remember, a lone worker is someone who is working without direct supervision.
A groundsman mowing the football pitch is a lone worker, as is a member of senior management working in an office alone. A teacher is lone working, as they are without direct supervision. A teaching assistant doing work with a pupil in a break-out space for half the lesson is lone working. An Educational Psychologist having a one to one session with a pupil is lone working. Lone working in schools is extremely common but often overlooked because schools are busy and full of people.
Once you have identified all the hazards to lone workers it is time to reduce the likelihood and impact.
An effective behaviour policy or code of conduct is a great first step. Make sure it is clear, comprehensive, and communicated to parents, students, and staff. Set and uphold expectations.
Have a robust reporting procedure where staff can report incidences without the worry nothing will be done, or they won’t be believed. Be specific about what sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Remember inappropriate behaviour can often escalate over time. A whispered retort can eventually develop into verbal abuse, which can quickly escalate into physical abuse.
Consider the layout of classrooms, offices, and break out spaces. Ensure the staff member is closest to the door and can easily escape.
Do not situate classrooms or offices in remote parts of the school. If you have to do this, provide a lone worker device or walkie talkie so staff can easily call for assistance if necessary.
Finally, have a procedure for when an assault does occur. There is a great guide here from the National Education Union on what to do if an assault happens. Follow up strongly and severely to prevent it from happening again.
Get In Touch With Us
A lone worker device can help in an emergency. Staff can immediately summon help, whether from an internal colleague or the emergency services. The First2HelpYou lone worker service is tailorable so you can set the escalation procedure and specify who can escalate to whom.
The devices can be worn on a belt clip or slot into the back of a custom-made ID cardholder.
If you would like to find out more, get in touch with us on 03337729401 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, complete our online contact form here and we will get back to you.