Under The Children’s Act (1989), childcare settings such as nurseries and schools have a duty of care towards the children they look after, and a crucial part of keeping these children safe is controlling who is allowed on-site at all times.
This can be achieved by using access control systems, which can be set up to manage access to facilities and keep a record of who has entered which areas, and when. By simply using their key code, fob, ID card, or fingerprint, staff and other authorised individuals can easily enter the parts of the site that they need to, while maintaining high levels of security at all times.
Choosing an access control system for your childcare setting requires careful consideration of the facility, and of the staff and children within it. In addition, there are many different types of access control system, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s take a closer look at why access control systems are used, and identify which ones are most appropriate for a range of different facilities.
Why Use Access Controls Rather Than Key Locking Systems?
Access control systems are now a fundamental security measure in all kinds of childcare environment. This is largely due to the security risks and impracticalities posed by traditional key locking systems, which include:
• A vulnerability to being picked or broken
• Keys can easily be lost, stolen, or copied
• Locking and unlocking areas using a key wastes valuable staff time, and causes overcrowding and disruption in corridors
• A system of signing keys ‘in’ and ‘out’ can be vulnerable to tampering, and as such, is not a secure method of access control
• Using a key-based lock system can waste valuable time in an emergency situation, such as a fire or a school lockdown
How Access Control Systems Are Used In Childcare Settings
Access Control Systems are integral to maintaining the security of many areas within a childcare setting. For example, here are just some of the points of entry that they can help to protect:
• The main access gate to the facility’s grounds
• Internal doors to sensitive areas of the facility, like those which may be found in a reception area
• Internal and external doors to highly secure areas of the facility - like for example, rooms that may contain confidential data
• Gates, barriers, or checkpoints that allow for security checks of people and objects
How Access Control Systems Work
Access Control Systems have a simple, three-step process. First, the individual presents their identification - which may be a PIN code, fob, ID card, or biometric data such as their fingerprint - to the system’s reader.
The control panel then compares this data with the access permissions stored in the database, with access being granted or denied according to the set permissions; this simple method promotes high levels of security and helps to ensure safe and efficient management of the premises.
A wide range of access control systems are available, all of which have their pros and cons.
Keycode Or PIN Systems
Keycode or PIN Access Control Systems grant entry to a room when a staff member enters their unique key code. The control panel verifies the code, checks it against the member of staff’s access permissions, and grants or denies entry accordingly.
• Relatively secure if staff are effectively trained in security protocols.
• Comparatively cost-effective
• There is still a risk of staff members sharing passcodes. As such, all staff who are provided with passcodes must be trustworthy and fully trained in data security
• Staff members or students may forget their passcodes, which can cause administrative issues.
• Passcodes may not be easy to remember, which could result in staff or students writing them down. In turn, this can easily lead to security breaches
Combining a Key Code or PIN Access Control System with biometric data such as fingerprint recognition may help to enhance security, but could prove to be a more costly measure.
Proximity readers use an ID card or key fob to grant access to the premises using a similar process to a keycode or PIN system.
Here, the individual presents their card or fob to the code reader, and the control panel checks it against their access permissions, with access then being either granted or denied.
• Proximity readers reduce the need for personal contact with an access point, making them more hygienic for busy environments. This in turn helps to reduce the spread of illnesses in childcare settings, which can circulate quickly due to children’s weakened immune systems
• ID cards usually feature a picture, which can be used as a secondary method of authentication
• ID cards and key fobs can easily be attached to a lanyard or other object to make them easy to carry around and keep handy
• Proximity reader systems are relatively cost-effective
• There is still a risk of key fobs or ID cards being lost or stolen
• Staff or students may forget to bring their key fob or ID card
• Key fobs or ID cards can get damaged and then require replacing
Biometric Access Control Systems use unique biological data - such as fingerprints or a retinal scan - to identify staff, students, children, and others. This advanced form of access control is highly secure and eliminates the risk of trespassing by unauthorised personnel.
Biometric systems can also be combined with other access control systems such as proximity readers and key code or PIN systems for heightened security.
• Highly secure - biometric data is non-transferrable and almost impossible to fake
• There is no need for ID cards or fobs, which can be forgotten or lost
• Biometric systems can grant quick and easy access during busy periods and emergencies
• The lack of key fobs and ID cards to assign and reclaim from staff and students also reduces the workload of admin staff, who will have more time to focus on other tasks
• Biometric systems are more expensive to install, and may be unaffordable for some childcare facilities due to financial restraints
• While biometric data cannot be transferred and is very difficult to fake, it is not impossible for the biometric database to be hacked (although this is very unlikely)
• Biometric systems often only use partial data for authentication purposes. Occasionally, this can result in false positives
Want to ensure that your property, premises, and workforce are kept safe and protected? Get in touch with our expert team!