Getting in or out of our school is like trying to break into Fort Knox.
We've just had another three security cameras fitted and aimed at the various entrances. Steve McQueen might just be able to leap over the wall on his motorbike, but he'd still have to crack the combination code on the front door.
How things have changed in the past couple of decades. When I came to Comber Grove, anybody could walk in, and frequently did, although I don't recall any sense of danger. And we had at least one burglary a year. I'd been at the school for two months when thieves broke through the nursery door and helped themselves to the school photograph money. Two weeks later a thief nipped into the kitchen, removed the cook's Christmas savings from her handbag and legged it over the wall. And I'd just formed a guitar group when two youths wandered in, grabbed the newest guitars and made off down the corridor. Fortunately I spotted them, chased them around the building and cornered them in a washroom. They dropped the guitars and fled. These days, I'd probably be whacked over the head with them.
Occasionally though, I have to admire the cheek of the dubious characters we come across. One afternoon, a teacher rushed into my office saying her new class computer had been removed. Did I know why, or where it was? I hadn't a clue. The door had been locked at lunchtime, and nobody had seen or heard anything. Until another member of staff shed light on what had happened. "Oh God," she said. "A chap in a white coat asked me where Jaine's classroom was because he had to take her computer for repair. And I opened the door for him!" We weren't certain how the thief knew where to look, but there's always a buzz of excitement among the children when a new piece of technology arrives, and unfortunately the excitement sometimes reaches into the local community. These days, we tell the children that our new interactive whiteboards might be very exciting, but we don't want the whole neighbourhood knowing about them.
It's unusual to feel sorry for a thief, but I did feel sympathy for the one who broke in through the nursery door - again - one weekend. When the teacher arrived on Monday, she found the train set and several constructional games carefully laid out on the carpet. Nothing was missing, and apart from the broken door nothing had been damaged. He'd obviously had a wonderful time playing with the equipment and then gone home again.
Presumably play hadn't featured strongly in his formative years.
These days, with all our security features, and the premises officer's alsatian dog, break-ins are rare. But that doesn't mean we can drop our guard. Recently, technicians fitting new equipment couldn't finish by hometime, and a set of loudspeakers was left in the bottom corridor. By next morning, they'd disappeared. No problem, we could scan through the video tapes and spot the mum in the heavy coat who'd suddenly become very pregnant. Except that the camera pointing at the only escape route had decided to pack up that evening.
And yes, the security code on the main door is a great idea, but, children being what they are, they delight in spotting it when staff forget to cover the buttons with their hand. On average, Dave, the premises officer, changes it every fortnight, and since I have trouble remembering my own house number I usually forget it immediately. Which is why I can often be spotted wandering around the building early in the morning, hoping that someone's arrived before me so that I can tap on their window and get them to let me in.
Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.