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Call to privatise security

THIS week 12 of Glasgow's secondary schools will be linked to a 24-hour closed circuit television remote monitoring station, in an attempt to improve security and prevent vandalism.

Glasgow City Council plans to have all its secondaries hooked up to the system by 2000. Primaries facing particular security problems will also be included.

Ian McDonald, Glasgow's depute director of education, described CCTV as "the way forward" for security in secondary schools. He called on the security industry to form a partnership with educational institutions.

"The way forward is not with local authorities blindly buying security systems," Mr McDonald said. "We should be sharing security risks with the security industry and the private sector. We want to get on with what we're best at, the core business of teaching. We should be less concerned with being builders, accountants and security guards. That is why in Glasgow we are looking at all our schools being managed by the private sector."

Speaking at a national conference on security in education at Bell College in Hamilton last week, Mr McDonald expressed some "disappointment" that the Cullen report into the Dunblane tragedy had not been more specific in its recommendations. "We thought there would be a lot of good advice, but in fact we were left to address our own security," he said.

Glasgow has responded by linking schools into the state of the art remote monitoring station at its Blochairn complex, already used to protect commercial premises and vacant properties.

CCTV cameras in school buildings are linked via ISDN lines to the station, which is manned around the clock. Mobile patrols will follow up any problems.

In the two years since the Cullen report, school security has become a major concern and a significant area of expenditure for schools. The cost of property crime and its prevention has been estimated at pound;13.50 per pupil per year, compared to pound;12 on books.

Camera door entry systems and visitor signing-in procedures have been accepted in many schools. But the need to balance education and security was a major preoccupation of the conference.

"We do not want education delivered from a fortress", said Inspector John O'Neill of Strathclyde Police. "The fear generated by an incident in a school is often out of proportion to what actually happened."

Measures discussed at the conference ranged from the pound;80,000 of security equipment in the new building of St Michael's Primary in Dumbarton to Dowanhill Nursery, Glasgow, which believes that electronically "tagging" its charges would be a cheap and efficient method of security.

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