28th February 1997 at 00:00
Q. Parents have complained that our school minibus has no seat belts. Are they justified?

A. As from February 10, minibuses carrying under-16s on organised trips have had to be fitted with seat belts. Crew buses, that is those with inward-facing seats running lengthways along the sides of the vehicle, cannot be used.

Q. I have been asked, as head, to advise my governors on their responsibilities on school security. What are their duties and mine?

A Since January, governing bodies have been required to include information about school security in their annual report to parents and to include the subject on their agenda. Their responsibilities in this matter are really an extension of your own professional duty of care to ensure that all pupils are as secure within the school as may reasonably be expected.

Of course, total security is impossible and provision must, therefore, be based on what is reasonable in all the circumstances. This will include consideration of the location of the school, its financial resources and the risks which may be faced.

The assessment of risk is the most important point. The Department of Education publication, Improving Security in Schools (Stationery Office, Pounds 6.90), is a very good guide to the subject and includes a simple form for risk assessment. The police can offer professional assistance.

The Government is providing grants for school security through the GEST mechanism from April and many local authorities will be conducting their own risk assessments in order to establish priorities for what inevitably will be limited resources.

You and your governors will have discharged your responsibilities if you can demonstrate that you have made a proper assessment of risk and have taken steps, within the resources available, to deal with the most serious deficiencies exposed by your survey.

It is important to bear in mind that not all security measures involve expensive equipment. Many improvements can be achieved at little or no cost. It is also essential to establish a process of regular review and update so that the issue is not forgotten.

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