Exclusive: Calls for DfE advice on lockdowns as more schools adopt the anti-terror measure

Teaching unions and security experts demand government guidance on school lockdowns in the event of a terrorist attack

Martin George

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Security experts and teaching unions are calling for the government to give schools information about how or whether they should practise lockdown procedures.

Recent terror attacks at home and abroad have prompted a growing number of schools in England to introduce plans to lock teachers and pupils in classrooms to keep them safe in the event of a terrorist incident.

Tes has established that the Department for Education does not have a policy on whether schools should have lockdown procedures, offer any specific guidance on what can be a very sensitive issue or have any idea how many schools are developing their own plans.

And the NAHT heads’ union said that the majority of local authorities also do not to offer advice on school lockdown procedures.

Professor Anthony Glees, who directs the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, said he “absolutely” believes that the DfE should provide more specific advice for schools on options, including lockdown, that they can evaluate and adapt to their circumstances.

He told Tes: “I think there should be a toolkit and [lockdown] should be part of the toolkit.”

'Run, hide and tell'

However, he warned that “lockdown might not necessarily be the best advice at all times”, and he highlighted alternative police advice to “run, hide, tell” during a weapons attack.

The DfE says that all schools should have their own emergency plans, “which they can develop with the help of local police forces and their local authority”, and stresses that it provides guidance to help schools plan and respond effectively to emergencies.

The DfE online guidance for schools covers putting together a “generic” emergency plan and makes no mention of lockdown procedures.

There is a link to resources on “school emergencies” provided by Nottinghamshire County Council. After clicking through four separate web pages, a persistent user could eventually find a short half-page appendix on “lockdown” provided by the council.

But the DfE has no position on whether schools should have such a procedure in place. 

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “The safety of children and staff in schools should be a key priority for the government. Their health and wellbeing cannot be left to ad hoc arrangements.

“The government needs a coherent national strategy on lockdown procedures.”

This is an edited article from the 30 June edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. 

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