How schools can comply with Martyn's Law and protect pupils and staff

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill is expected to be put before Parliament in the spring of 2024. The bill, commonly known as Martyn's Law, intends to improve safety in publicly accessible places if a terrorist attack occurs. The types of premises the law will apply to include primary and secondary schools.

The law divides premises into two categories according to their capacity. The responsibilities for those in the Standard Tier (capacity between 100 and 799 people) are less demanding than those for Enhanced Tier venues (capacity 800 or more).

Even if their capacity is 800 or over, it is proposed that premises used for childcare or primary, secondary, or further education will fall within the Standard Tier.

A consultation process on the requirements of Standard Tier premises ended in March 2024. Following the consultation, changes to the legislation have been proposed. These aim to ensure that requirements for Standard Tier premises are proportionate and clear while achieving their primary objective of implementing simple procedures that could reduce harm and save lives in an attack.

Obligations for schools

One of the primary obligations of those responsible for Standard Tier premises is to implement procedures that, so far as reasonably practicable, reduce harm to the public and staff at the premises in the event of a terrorist attack. These include evacuation, invacuation, lockdown and communication.

They are intended to focus on outcomes, rather than processes, and the development of tailored and effective plans and procedures. Premises are not expected or required to make any physical alterations.

Settings with a maximum capacity of less than 100 will not be legally obliged to take action under Martyn's Law. However, the principles of Counter Terrorism Protect and Prepare can be adopted by schools of any size to ensure their communities are safeguarded.

Creating your response

When formulating plans and procedures, schools should focus on three main topics.

  • Guide – how to direct people towards the most appropriate location.
  • Shelter – establish how the site can lockdown and provide refuge for those on-site.
  • Communicate – have a mechanism to communicate quickly and effectively with the appropriate people on the site.

In a school, the people who need help in the event of an incident are not all together in the same place at the same time. They could be in classrooms, offices or outside. Whatever the school size, this can make it challenging to guide and communicate with everyone appropriately in an emergency. This challenge is complicated because some people on-site need to be told what to do by a person of authority.

Getting the message out

One way to overcome this challenge is to set up a school-wide communication system that can pass the right messages to the right people in the event of an attack. VOIP telephony systems are the ideal mechanism. Helpful features include:

  • Ability to broadcast site-wide sound alerts for different situations.
  • Possibility to notify key people individually about incidents by voice call, message or text alert.

The switch to VOIP systems is already underway thanks to the national PSTN switch-off. Schools should ensure that their replacement system can help them meet the requirements of Martyn’s Law.

How schools can comply with Martyn's Law and protect pupils and staff
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