Staff take on IT criminals

7th October 2005 at 01:00
School pioneers solution to whiteboard thefts. Nick Hilbourne reports.

A Manchester school has designed and manufactured its own solution to the growing problem of whiteboard projector thefts.

After two projectors were stolen from Barlow RC high in Didsbury, the school decided the remaining 10 should be taken down at the end of every day, locked away, and put up again the following morning.

"They were taking half an hour to take down, and the same to put up, at just the times of day when our technicians are most busy," said Geoff Pilkington, IT manager at the school.

Mr Pilkington, helped by John Manning, the caretaker, fixed metal plates to the 12 projectors and their mounts so they could be slid into place in a few minutes.

"The projector fits into exactly the right place so there is no problem about changing the setting on the whiteboards," said Mr Pilkington. "They can also be locked in position. Since we did the work, not a single projector has disappeared from our classrooms."

Michael O'Neill, the headteacher, said Mr Pilkington's work had saved money on both insurance premiums and repairing damage to buildings caused by break-ins.

"Projectors are probably the most desirable item in the school for many thieves," he said. "Geoff has produced a deterrent which works."

Becta, the schools technology agency, has been holding a series of meetings with technology companies to try to come up with a solution to the problem.

A spokeswoman said the agency would be reporting back later this month to a working group representing the Department for Education and Skills, the Metropolitan and Greater Manchester police forces, local authorities and suppliers.

She said the report would examine a range of new products being developed by technology companies to make interactive whiteboards more secure.

Thieves use whiteboards to project DVDs and other home entertainment. A primary school in Manchester recently lost 11, each worth pound;1,000 to pound;2,000, in a single raid.

A Met Police spokeswoman said crime prevention officers had been sent to schools across London after a wave of projector thefts. In the first three months of 2005, there were 195 school break-ins involving projector thefts in London.

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