Are your pupils safe and sound?

Paul Howe, MD of Venture Security, on the lessons that can be learned after a security firm was caught providing a school with unlicensed guards

A Wiltshire security company has hit the headlines after pleading guilty to providing unlicensed security guards to a school. The Security Industry Authority (SIA) reports that around 40 unlicensed staff were assigned to the school over a period of 12 years, with an investigation revealing a catalogue of falsifications and deceptions.

With many independent schools calling on the services of external security providers, the news is likely to come as a shock. And according to Paul Howe, MD of Venture Security, it is sadly a situation that is all too common.

Paul explained: “For independent schools, who are trusted with the care and wellbeing of minors, knowing that any persons who are onsite have been thoroughly vetted and have all the licenses and checks they need, is of paramount importance.

“What we are advising schools is that they take this as an opportunity to review their own procedures and processes – and to check up on current providers if they haven’t done so recently – to ensure they never find themselves facing a similar situation.”

Paul continued: “While there are some fantastic security companies out there, there are also some unscrupulous ones. The best way to protect yourself – whether you’re a school, business or individual enlisting professional security services – is to not only ask the right questions in the beginning and put a tick in the box, but to proactively perform checks. You need to ensure that you’re getting what you pay for, with guards who are trained and fully licensed.

“The better the quality of the security company you are using, the more benefit they will ultimately offer you.”

Here are Paul’s top tips for schools on protecting themselves from unscrupulous providers.

1. Conduct spot checks If you are currently using a security provider then look up the license numbers of individual guards on the SIA website, to check they have a current license. Make this part of the process, so regular spot checks are made

2. Ask about contingency planning What happens when there’s an issue, such as bad weather or a vehicle breakdown. Who steps in? If the provider’s planning isn’t comprehensive, then you risk unlicensed guards being assigned to the site, to help make up the numbers

3. Check their documents Ask to physically see their insurance documentation and any other essential documents. If they are claiming to be a member or accredited by any industry bodies, then check those claims are true. For schools and similar settings, an enhanced DBS is vital

4. Make use of online The internet can be a very helpful tool. Google the company and the names of its directors. Also ask peers and others in your networks, for recommendations and reviews

5. Speak to current clients Ask to talk to current clients, to hear first-hand what it is like to work with the company, and what their key strengths and weaknesses are

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