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School CCTV Systems and Security in Education

As part of our CCTV and Security “what is” guide blog series we will publish new guides over the coming weeks and months which aim to help demystify the technology, terms and features of CCTV Systems for our customers.

With the extensive range of CCTV systems now available, coupled with the vast range of features and technology (such as “C.A.I.” – CCTV Artificial Intelligence and A.N.P.R. – Automatic Number plate Recognition) our customers can depend on our inhouse product specialists at Advanced Overwatch to recommend and design a bespoke CCTV system to meet unique and exact requirements.

A typical school CCTV Camera installation from Advanced Overwatch can take the form of:


School CCTV Systems: common place

In education, CCTV systems have become much more prevalent in the past decade. Prior to that, many schools and higher education locations had no surveillance systems or limited its use to entrances only. This changed as serious incidents, grant funding and public support increased.

We have installed many extensive school CCTV systems, even in the smallest of schools. In this guide, we will look at design considerations for CCTV in schools. We cover common threats, camera locations, network considerations, viewing video and product selection.


Common threats a School CCTV System can help eliminate

Most threats to schools are external, including:

Vandalism: Damage and vandalism to a school’s exterior are common problems, including graffiti, broken windows, or damage to playground equipment.

Theft: Computers and AV equipment are the most common targets of theft in schools. Computers especially have become a target, with expensive and desirable equipment in view of people from the outside, making it easier to “smash and grab”.

Child abduction: A quick search of the internet turns up thousands of results for attempted child abduction from schools, often by parents without custody. Abduction is less likely than theft or vandalism, but the legal, public relations and reputational damage potential are far more severe.

The above most common issues often represent the main reason for a School CCTV installation, although problems at each school vary and can include staff theft, fighting and monitoring of vulnerable and disabled children.


Common Camera Locations for School CCTV

With the above threats in mind, there are a few locations where we generally always install school CCTV cameras. Each system we have deployed is designed for the specific requirements identified and also inline with Data Impact Assessments with a “privacy first” focus:

Entrances: All entrances to the building should be covered to capture coming and goings.

This includes the main entrance, in addition to entrances used for pickup and drop off, during bus loading and unloading, deliveries and doors which may be used at breaktimes or for P.E.

These doors are most likely to be held open or left unlocked, potentially becoming an entry point for criminals. This is normally best accomplished with a camera inside the building, focused tightly on the entrance. At many of our customer facilities we have installed CCTV cameras outside the building, aimed entrances for this purpose.

We install wide dynamic CCTV cameras in locations with strong backlighting such as floodlights.

Building exterior: CCTV for the exterior of a school building, including the building perimeter CCTV and play areas, is typically covered to capture any footage of vandalism as it happens. As most schools are not staffed at night, CCTV cameras are often invaluable when installed at these locations. The building perimeter is most often covered by cameras aimed from building corners. Fully covering every single exterior wall is often not necessary, as vandalism is far less likely to occur in areas which are under natural surveillance, i.e., close to well-lit streets in residential areas or adjacent to a main road or footpath. In these cases, the back of the building or blind spots are key areas we install CCTV.

Computer rooms: Security is often an afterthought in these locations. When surveying and designing a CCTV system for any location we investigate if unsecured windows and intrusion detection sensors are required. Having CCTV installed and combined with a School Burglar Alarm means that a criminal breaking a window will not go undetected until the next morning and action can be taken right away.

School canteen: Of all the areas in a school, the canteen is the most likely to see student disturbances, simply because no other area gathers as many students at one time. Typically, the canteen is covered with our CCTV Cameras from multiple angles, such as from corner to corner, though architectural features such as columns and odd-shaped rooms will dictate whether this is preferable. Often we will install 180 and 360-degree panoramic cameras in these areas, as they allow monitoring of a wide area from a single point, while reducing the overall total number of cameras required.


Network Considerations for School CCTV Systems

Most School CCTV camera deployments we have installed in are setup on a dedicated and totally isolated network, instead of connecting to existing switches. This does not mean that no coordination with school or educational authority IT staff is required, but can facilitate a faster installation and reduce cross-network security concerns. In most cases, the security and school LANs are connected in some way (such as a dedicated VLAN), so that principals and other authorised administrative staff may view the cameras on their PCs. If video will be monitored remotely at our CCTV Control Room, or via staff mobile app (such as the School Caretaker who will receive alerts of any incidents on his phone) we will configure the firewalls and/or routers to allow this traffic working in conjunction with the educational authorities.


Access to School CCTV Footage

In most cases, school CCTV cameras are rarely viewed live, and reviewed for incidents only after they occur. Most schools do not have staff dedicated to monitoring CCTV during school hours, so viewing is often in the form of a monitor located in the main office, which administrative staff can glance at occasionally, or when required as someone is at the door or gate. In many cases we have integrated the school CCTV system to access control or automated gates.

Sporadic use of school CCTV can sometimes lead to missed incidents which may have been easily caught by someone viewing live. In order to counteract this our CCTV engineers will setup smart analytics and motion detection. We find that staff of our educational customers often view live CCTV with more intent during the start and end of the school day, when more doors in and out of the building are open, and during lunch time. Often at these times school CCTV will capture the majority of incidents and this is when intrusions are more likely.


School CCTV Cameras benefit staff

School Principals are often mobile, out of their office most of the day, and in some cases covering multiple buildings. The ability to check CCTV from anywhere via a smart phone or tablet can be of benefit.

Caretakers, night-time and out of hours cleaning staff benefit as well. The capability to check only the cameras they have permission to access which view the perimeter or exterior areas during the course of their shift, can help to ensure if working alone that if any incident of burglary or vandalism is immediately brought to attention.


Purchasing School CCTV Cameras and installation

In most cases, schools have a budget for purchases which can be made without going to tender. In many cases, even purchases below this limit require multiple quotes. Many schools have benefited from our approach at Advanced Overwatch when installing school CCTV systems as we design the system with both effectiveness and value for the school in mind as ultimately the students and local community benefit from our work.

The size and complexity of School CCTV systems and CCTV systems for higher education such as technical colleges and universities can vary greatly. We design small systems from 4 cameras up to hundreds of campus based camera systems.

System prices for School CCTV systems are dependent upon the number and type of cameras specified and the complexity of installation. Frequently, we install School CCTV systems out of hours so no disruption is caused during normal school hours and to ensure that health and safety of the students is put first.


School CCTV camera selection

In our experience, there are definite trends in what types of CCTV equipment is purchased by schools:

School CCTV IP vs. Analog: Like the bulk of new installs at Advanced Overwatch, IP cameras are selected more often than not for school CCTV. The key benefit of IP CCTV to schools is increased resolution, discussed below and also cost of cable installation and future upgrade protection.


Analog CCTV in Schools is becoming a thing of the past.

Frame rate and retention: Given the small fields of view of most interior areas in schools, generally frame rates of 15-20 frames per second is more than sufficient. The purpose of these cameras is more for identification than to capture subtle movements, making higher framerates pointless – bandwidth and storage space costs can be reduced when selecting an appropriate frame rate for our educational customers. When installing CCTV in exterior school areas our engineers will set frame rates as high as 25 FPS, especially if capturing details of moving vehicles is a concern including number plate recognition.

Outdoor areas are particularly best covered with motorised high megapixel cameras, in order to provide the best opportunity of identifying details across a wide area such as a football pitch or open space at a school.


4K and 8K CCTV for Schools:

High resolution, 4K and 8K cameras are often selected by our educational customers for very large areas, such as car parks and assembly halls. These areas are often dimly lit when not in use, which makes capturing nighttime video a challenge, and with higher resolution cameras (with motorised lenses and PTZ – Pan Tilt Zoom, a large area can be covered, in high definition). By installing PTZ cameras, large areas can be covered with fewer cameras reducing costs and maintenance fees.

For outdoor school areas covered we will often support camera field of view with supporting floodlights and motion sensors and detectors.


What type of CCTV camera is best for a School?

Minidomes are generally used in interior areas, to reduce susceptibility to vandalism, and maintain better aesthetics. For exterior areas, we install bullet, and minidome style of cameras at School locations. The cameras we specify when designing a school CCTV system often have the option for a selection of lenses, which may be necessary in some instances.


If you are searching for an experienced and SSAIB Certified installation company to install School CCTV or CCTV in the educational sector, get in touch with Advanced Overwatch today – a product and solutions specialist will carry out a free School CCTV survey and complete a design proposal and specification. Visit our contact page by clicking here, or call: 028 7087 8077

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