They've stolen my room

9th September 2005 at 01:00
We've got a bit of a dilemma. We recently invested heavily in school security: CCTV, additional coded security locks, a controlled door at the entrance and additional lighting. Good for us. We've done all this because of the rise in walk-in thefts locally and our own experience. I have had two computers stolen from my office, with all the associated hassle of lost files as well as lost confidence.

We have learnt by our mistakes and gradually we've erected a wall around ourselves, partly to satisfy the insurers. My first laptop was only insured to 50 per cent as there was no evidence of break-in. The thief walked through the door, rummaged in my files and sneaked out again. As a result we had an extra coded lock fitted on my office door so we could secure the room - and claim full insurance.

What happened second time round? The lock jammed, just at the moment that thief number two struck. Fortunately, the insurers agreed it wasn't my fault for leaving the door open once again and the locksmiths paid out the remaining 50 per cent. In the meantime all my theories about "open doors" have been demolished. Every time I leave my office I consider whether the lock should be on or off. Will I return shortly, or might I need to take a detour? If the door is locked, children cannot enter to put their award cards on my desk and members of staff have difficulty adding to my in-tray; if the door is unlocked and a thief should return, that's another pound;600 down the pan. But every time the door locks, it sends a judder round the building, reinforcing an impression of some kind of penitentiary. Just what we always wanted to avoid. And there's more... Recently, a local infants school, built in the same style as ours, reported two consecutive break-ins through their roof. The thieves helped themselves to equipment and caused a significant amount of damage. It seems the coded locks were no deterrent, but at least they could claim their insurance. So what advice had they been given by the local police in order to reduce the risk and damage? Leave their internal doors open. Well I never.

So, here's my dilemma. Do I leave my door open, allowing children and staff to enter freely in the true spirit of an "open" school and prevent the increased risk of damage to school property? Or do I keep it locked so we can claim the full value of the computer (minus excess, of course)? Maybe I should just remove the middleman and establish an agreement with our local cash converter to supply them with a PC at regular intervals.

Suzanne O'Connell is head of Queen's C of E junior school in Nuneaton

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