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Fencing for School

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School security is a multi-faceted subject. As well as parents expecting their children to be safe from intruders, schools want to prevent truancy by controlling when and where children can leave. In addition, the personal safety of staff and visitors is of considerable concern to Local Education Authorities(LEAs).

In January 2010, Ofsted also published new guidance for its inspectors. Briefing for section 5 inspectors on safeguarding children includes pointers for inspectors to help inform the judgement on the effectiveness of safeguarding. Item 7 states:
  • Inspectors should take into account the extent to which the school takes reasonable steps to ensure that pupils are safe on the school site, for example by monitoring visitors or volunteers or those using the premises during school time.
  • Does the school have adequate security arrangements for the grounds and buildings?
Reports have suggested that some schools are now being marked down because of inadequate perimeter security fencing and gates.

Today's schools contain valuable and portable property that is attractive to thieves, and arson is a significant problem that can, to a large extent, be tackled by preventing unauthorised access. With arson resulting in damage worth around 60million GBP each year through attacks on an average 20 schools per week, improvements here are highly beneficial.

However, schools have to remain an attractive learning environment, and LEAS are being encouraged to open their schools to the wider community. Adequate security therefore has to be achieved without schools looking like prison camps. Furthermore, research shows that aggressive security measures can make establishments appear at risk; and if there is a perception that crimes are being committed, this can lead to an increase in crime.

Clearly the subject o school perimeter security is highly complex. Not only are there legal and planning requirements to be met, but each school has its own needs - so the solution to the problem is different in every case. Furthermore, security has to be considered as a complete package, including fencing, CCTV, access control and other measures.

Fencing is the most important of the available security measures, as has been highlighted in a survey of LEAs (Research Report reference RR419) commissioned by DfES and undertaken by GHK. The results, School Security Concerns (ISBN 1 84185 9729), published in 2003, put perimeter security at the top o the hierarchy o preventative measures, and at the top of the LEAs' list of measures that work well. One LEA described a 75 per cent reduction in crime and trespass resulting from the installation o perimeter fencing.

Given the importance of fencing and the complexity o the context, this specifier's guide to perimiter security fencing for schools explains the different options available, presents the advantages and limitations of each, and steers the reader towards making the right decision that will provide the necessary level of security at an acceptable cost and without compromising other area such as aesthetics.

School perimeter fencing achieves the following...

  • Marks the school's boundaries
  • Deters casual trespassers and/or determined intruders
  • Increases the time it takes or determined intruders to breach the security
  • Prevents pupils leaving the school without permission
  • Prevents unauthorised removal of property
  • Compliance with insurer's requirements - in terms of theft, damage and public liability

Security Starts With A Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is the best place to start when specifying perimeter security. Various templates and checklists are available, such as the one in the Managing School Facilities - Guide 4, Improving Security in Schools, published by TSO (ISBN 0 11 270916 8)

This has a three-part checklist that covers the actors to consider:
  • Incidence of crime
  • Environment and buildings
  • Security measures
A simple scoring system is used, with the score total indicating whether the school in question is low, medium or high risk. Depending on the overall level of risk, suitable measures can be selected. After this, the risks should be re-assessed to see if an acceptable level has been achieved. If not, either the proposed security measures need to be revised, or additional measures will be required. Again, the risks are reassessed, and so the iterative process continues until the risks have all been reduced to a level that is as low as reasonably practical (which takes into account the cost of implementing the security measures compared with the associated reduction in risk).

Risk assessment also need to be reviewed as follows:
  • periodically - to check whether there have been any significant changes to the factors considered in the initial assessment
  • in response to any changes in circumstances - such as an increase in the value of the property being protected, a spate of theft, vandalism or arson attacks, or an increase in security at other schools in the vicinity (crime displacement is a well known phenomenon).

For schools that have been assessed as being medium or high risk, it is recommended that advice is sought from a professional risk manager, as a risk assessment conducted incorrectly will give misleading results that could cost the school dear - either as a result of insufficient being put in place or excessive expenditure on an unnecessarily high level of security.

Perimeter Fencing As Part Of A Security Package

It has already been mentioned that perimeter fencing needs to be considered as part of overall school security. The role played by fencing will depend on a number of factor, such as the results of the risk assessment, the layout of the school and its grounds, whether strict access control is required, and whether there are any public rights of way through the school premises.

In some cases the best approach is to install perimeter fencing around the complete school boundary, but in other cases it might be more appropriate to use fencing as part of a package of measures to secure a smaller area around the school buildings. Other measures might include security lighting, CCTV, intruder alarms, automatic fire detection/alarm/sprinkler systems, shutters and grilles on windows and doors, entrances with access control measures, and security guards on patrol.

In high risk schools where relatively severe security measures are being considered, it should not be forgotten that means of escape must be retained in case of fire.

More information about assessing risks, developing a security strategy and implementing security measures is contained in the 'Safer Schools and Hospitals Toolkit', which is available at the Home Office's Crime Reduction website. There is also a forum for professionals and practitioners working in the field of CPTED(crime prevention through environmental design) at the Designing Out Association website (see 'Further Information' in this present guide).

 Choosing The Right Type Of Perimeter Fencing

Several different types of fencing are available, with the final choice being a question of the relative importance of security, aesthetics and cost. Note that a fence 1.8-2.0m high will usually be sufficient to deter casual intruders, but 2.5m fencing will be necessary to keep out more determined intruders. In very high risk schools, fences as high as 3-3,5m may be required. Bear in mind that planning authorities will need to be satisfied with the type and height of fencing, as well as any additional security measures specified.

Chain link fencing has been popular or decades due to its low cost and versatility. Chain link is available in a range of strengths and finishes including galvanised and plastic coated options. Chain link fencing is suitable or low security applications such as sports fields. It is easily adapted to uneven ground and can be mounted on steel or concrete posts with or without additional security features (see below).


  Palisade fencing became extremely popular in the 1980s. It typically takes around twice as long to cut through as chain link, though climb-resistance is seldom much better. Overall security is therefore only marginally improved, yet the cost is greater. Different thicknesses and profiles are available, and polyester powder coating can provide a more attractive finish than the common galvanised finish. Palisade is available with the vertical pales formed into a variety of shapes from round-topped to a single point or a splayed multi-point form.

Vertical bar (railing) fencing is similar in concept to palisade fencing but is not as visually obtrusive, having a less industrial appearance. The level of security is similar or better than that provided by palisade fencing, and there is normally a choice of top finials for the vertical rails. Purchase and installation costs, however, tend to be slightly higher than for comparable palisade fencing due to the greater manufacturing cost.

Welded wire mesh(weldmesh) panels provide a more secure type of fencing. It takes many times longer to cut through than most alternatives and can be significantly harder to scale due to the lack of hand and footholds presented by the small mesh sizes available. Welded mesh fencing is normally galvanised to provide a long-lasting finish, and polyester powder coating can be used on top of the galvanising to add colour. Although the top of the weldmesh panel can provide only limited anti-climb features (a short vertical wire), toppings can be mounted on the supporting posts to increase security.


Additionally Security Features

Fence extensions

These are included here for completeness, though they are more usually applied to fences around industrial or commercial premises rather than schools. Extensions can be mounted on most concrete or steel posts, with vertical, cranked, Y-shaped or T-shaped forms for securing rows o barbed wire or rolls of razor wire. There are also various purpose-designed products, usually with metal or plastic spikes that rotate on bars fixed between posts. These extensions all significantly reduce the likelihood of intruders climbing over the fence.

However, great care must be taken when specifying toppings that could potentially cause injury. There is, for example, a legal requirement to mount the toppings visibly so that anyone can see them as they approach the fence, and, with certain toppings, there should be warning signs mounted on the fence at regular intervals; these signs should also be visible/lit at night. It is never recommended to use an anticlimb topping below 1.8m and, additionally, local planning restrictions may not permit the use of certain types of topping.

Buried fencing

In some cases there is a risk that intruders maybe attempt to dig beneath a fence. To counteract this threat the fence can be buried so that it extends below ground level. This technique can also be effective if it is necessary to keep out rabbits or other burrowing pests.



CCTV (closed-circuit television) is a cost-effective deterrent and provides evidence to help secure convictions in the event of crimes being committed. Nevertheless, one of the main advantages of CCTV is that provides an instant alert of an attempted break-in, thereby helping to prevent theft, vandalism and arson. For CCTV to be most effective when used in conjunction with fencing, the fencing should have a relatively open structure - such as weldmesh rather than palisade - to enable the camera to 'see' through the fence.

Access control

Some schools are starting to use gates with access control both to keep intruders out and prevent pupils from leaving during school hours. Even if access control is not an immediate requirement, it may be prudent to make allowance for its adoption in the future when specifying gates (see below).

What Type Of Fence Posts To Use?

Timber is unsuitable for security fencing, which leaves either concrete or steel - with a choice of RSA (rolled steel angle), RHS (rectangular hollow section) or CHS (circular hollow section). Factors to consider include strength, cost, aesthetics, requirement or toppings, and whether tamper-resistant barrel winders need to be concealed within a hollow section. Concrete is less prone to corrosion than galvanised, powder coated or painted steel, but it has a more industrial appearance.


Whenever there is a perimeter fence, there needs to be at least one access point. Gates are usually available from fencing suppliers to complement the specified type and design of fencing. It is important to ensure that the design and specification of the gates provides the same level o security as the fencing. While the size will depend on the type of access required (individuals, groups of people, or single or multiple vehicles), it is best practice to keep the access points as small in number and size as reasonably possible.

Hinged gates are typically used at schools, though sliding gates, lifting barriers and road-mounted barriers are also appropriate in some circumstances.

Whatever type of gate or access is used, care must be taken to ensure that it is not vulnerable in comparison with the remainder of the perimeter security. For example, gates should be located where they are clearly visible, and all hinges and other mechanical components must be adequately maintained.

Note also that gates need to be considered in conjunction with the access controls if those are being specified or may be added in the future.

Security Pitfalls To Avoid

Whatever security measures are implemented, care should be taken to avoid the most commonly encountered pitfalls. These include holes that are left unrepaired, trees that grouw up adjacent to fencing and make it easy to climb over, fences that are constructed alongside quiet, unlit roadways where a vehicle can readily - and without attracting attention - be parked alongside to provide an easy route over the fence, and other items such as wheeled rubbish bins that can be manoeuvred to aid climbing. Given the propensity or schools to be attacked by arsonists, rubbish and other flammable items should not be stored in close proximity to the fencing.

The Importance Of Correct Installation

A fence is only as good as its installation. Poorly installed fencing detracts from the appearance of the premises, and everybody knows how important first impressions are. An invited visitor to the school may see the poor fence as a reflection of the school's own standards, and a potential intruder may look upon poorly installed fencing as a sign that the school pays little attention to security.

Furthermore, poorly installed fencing may be easier to breach in some cases, and it will be more likely to need repairs and maintenance earlier than would otherwise be necessary. In the worst case, an insurer may contest a claim if the security fencing is deemed to be unsatisfactory.

Installing fencing is a skilled job and specifiers should be aware than some fencing contractors hire unskilled labour on a project-by-project basis, rather than retaining a team of properly trained installers.

Specifiers are strongly recommended only to use fencing contractors that are accredited to BS EN ISO 9001:2008

Secured By Design

Secured by Design (SBD) is an initiative from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) that aims to reduce crime through effective environmental design. The scheme also calls for the installation o security products that meet Police-approved standards.

Established in 1989, SBD is now widely recognised within the building industry and is increasingly being listed in tenders as a mandatory requirement. Specifying SBD-accredited products (such as perimeter security fencing) and SBD-accredited installers helps to demonstrate that appropriate steps are being taken to reduce crime. Schools and LEAs are also recognising that SBD is a simple way to identify products that are effective in preventing crime, as the SBD logo is the only symbol guaranteeing national Police approval of products providing a realistic level of resistance to criminal attack. In order to be recognised by the SBD scheme, products have to be tested and approved by UKAS-accredited test houses as being compliant with specified standards.

Check Sliding Gates British Standards

Download this Perimeter Security Fencing Guide as a PDF, register as a user first if you have not, it is very simple
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