"The Pinpoint System makes a positive impact in making staff and pupils much safer."
There is only one purpose-built Secondary School in Scotland, for pupils with moderate, severe and complex additional support needs. That school is Carrongrange High School. It opened in August 2017 and is situated in the centre of Grangemouth to the east of Falkirk.
In this specialist environment, students are taught in classes with a maximum of 10 pupils and are supported by skilled and experienced practitioners who are committed to meeting their individual needs.
The school places special importance on the health and wellbeing of its students, preparing them with the skills they will need to live an independent life.
Teaching groups of students with varying special needs can be challenging for teachers and support staff. Some of these challenges include behavioural issues that could quickly escalate from smaller events into major incidents, endangering students and staff, if they are not managed professionally and sensitively.
The Labour Force Survey 2017-2019, published by the Health and Safety Executive in April 2020, shows that the risk for education professionals to suffer a non-fatal assault at work is three times as high as the national average for all professions.
Due to the conditions they present with, some students are prone to exhibiting very challenging behaviour, which can expose staff to assault from (usually unintentional) outbursts of violent activity.
To help reduce the number of possible issues and better manage those that do arise, Carrongrange High School has installed a Pinpoint Personal Attack Alarm System.
The ability for an endangered staff member to summon help is critical in two scenarios: In the first example, a staff member feels that a potentially difficult situation is evolving either between themselves and a student; or between the student and another student or a member of the public. Experience in a number of similar settings has demonstrated that the appearance of another staff member at the scene is frequently enough to diffuse the potentially aggressive situation. Consequently, a method for the staff member to secretly and silently summon assistance is needed. This surreptitious call for assistance is one of the functions built into the Pinpoint Personal Infrared Transmitters (PIT) body-worn device. The staff member simply presses a small button and can be certain that help is on its way.
The second frequent scenario is when a physical attack is imminent or in progress; the staff member is in serious danger and needs to be able to summon the emergency response team without delay. Without needing to look at the PIT or even feel for a button, the member of staff simply yanks the PIT and lets it fall to the floor. This raises the emergency alarm and, in this case, alerts the student that help has been summoned. Again, often a student will calm down knowing that he or she is going to be outnumbered within a matter of seconds. And if they don’t then the emergency team will arrive and implement the emergency procedure to bring the incident to a swift end and usually without anyone being harmed.
A personal attack alarm is an essential body-worn panic button. Why does it need to be body-worn you might wonder? The reason is simply that if there were only wall-mounted panic buttons, often the student would place themselves between the staff member and the button to stop them being able to call assistance.
When the new Carrongrange High School was built in 2017, the Pinpoint System covered two floors with 32 classrooms and other areas including the gym, the swimming and hydrotherapy pool. In the last year, the number of students has grown and, to improve the cover, the system was extended to include all outdoor areas as well as further areas in the buildings.
“The system is great, it is effective, instantaneous and it works well for us,” said Scott Thomson, deputy headteacher at Carrongrange School. “It makes a positive impact in making staff and pupils much safer.”
During term time, the Pinpoint System is sometimes activated up to ten times a day. And as Thomson says: “By students just knowing that the staff can summon help immediately with their PIT has significantly reduced the number of incidents from what we would otherwise have.” Even on the days when no alarm is triggered, the school’s staff feel safer in their work environment, knowing help can be summoned in dangerous situations at the push of a button.