The new secondary school at Bemahague has become the first government building in the Island to win an award for designing out crime.
The £33.8 million St Ninian’s Lower School opens to pupils on 5 September and will house the whole of Key Stage 3, some 650 pupils in Years 7 to 9.
Designed by architect Savage and Chadwick and built by Auldyn Construction, it’s the first Isle of Man Government project to receive the ‘Secured by Design’(SbD) benchmark.
SbD is an Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) initiative that encourages those creating buildings to use thoughtful design to minimise opportunities for crime and anti-social behaviour to be committed.
Douglas Corporation has led the way locally, achieving SbD certification for the redevelopment of its houses at Pulrose.
Constable Mike Radcliffe, the Isle of Man Constabulary’s Architectural Liaison Officer, encouraged the Department of Education and Children to seek certification for Bemahague.
‘I saw the school as a flagship project and felt it was an ideal opportunity to learn from experience, which has shown that a range of security issues were inadvertently “built in” to older school buildings,’ he said.
‘It’s not just about physical security measures such as locks on doors and windows but how people use and interact with the buildings and grounds,’ Constable Radcliffe explained. ‘For example, experience shows that, despite the best efforts of staff, bullying can occur within “hidden” spaces and isolated locations in school buildings. The interior of this new school has therefore been laid out so that – as far as is reasonably practical – such spaces have been removed.
‘The key is making individuals aware that they can be seen by others (staff or pupils) wherever they are within the school buildings or grounds, thus reducing the likelihood of them misbehaving.
‘With ACPO’s permission, SbD’s school-specific guidance was adapted to meet local needs,’ Constable Radcliffe explained. ‘The Island has a low crime rate and experience shows that heavy-handed security measures can have a detrimental effect on how people perceive their environment. In this case it could have resulted in the school being seen as being an unwelcoming “fortress”.
‘Instead, security measures have been incorporated into the school’s design so that they are not immediately evident. The school is a valuable resource and should be accessible and welcoming to staff, pupils and members of the wider community such as groups hiring sports facilities and members of the public using the grounds in the evenings and at weekends.
‘Everyone has their role to play in ensuring that the school remains a safe and pleasant place to learn, work or visit.’
The Minister said:
‘In designing a brand new school, we had the opportunity to think about how we could use its physical features to minimise both the occasional incidence of anti-social behaviour in school and damage to the property. The former has a negative effect on young people’s education and the latter costs us dearly, too, in terms of repair bills and having facilities out of use.
‘While, sadly, we will never eliminate bad behaviour entirely from our school grounds, taking this approach will hopefully pay off in terms of reducing it on this site and I thank all those who contributed towards the DEC gaining this award.’
Photo: Constable Mike Radcliffe (second right) presents the Secured by Design award to Tim Crookall MHK (second left), Minister for Education and Children, watched by – from left – Rob Cowley, Head of St Ninian’s Lower School, Andy Fox, Headteacher of St Ninian’s High School, and Richard Collister, Estates Director with the DEC.