In a nutshell
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED)'s Safe Schools Programme works with schools to ensure safe school environments needed for successful teaching and learning.
The programme's strategies include installing security systems; while also addressing the social environment, by influencing learner behaviour; and by working with schools to mobilise community support for safe schools.
Safe Schools works in partnership with local police and community organisations, such as neighbourhood watches and Community Policing Forums.
What we do
Safe Schools’ Strategy and Core Programmes
Safe Schools follows a three-pronged strategy which focuses broadly on the safety of educators, learners and support staff. The Safe Schools Programme is subdivided into three programmes, in line with its three-pronged strategy. These three sub-programmes are designed to create safe and effective environments conducive to teaching and learning. The sub-programmes include; Environmental Programmes, Developmental Programmes, and Systems Programmes.
1. Environmental Programmes
The Safe Schools Environmental Programmes focus on securing the physical structure of each school. As such, the Environmental Programmes are aimed at controlling and limiting access to school property. This is undertaken through the following measures:
- Prohibiting trespassing through the display of signs which prohibit trespassing. Once these signs are displayed, if any individual who is not entitled to be on the school property enters the school property, they can be charged with trespassing.
- Safe-guarding educators and property and limiting access to the school premises via the administrative building. As part of a school’s safety plan, physical security measures are needed to ensure the safety of the school property and of learners, educators and other staff on the school premises. These physical security measures include fencing and proper gates, with access control. Every year, a selected amount of schools receive financial assistance to improve the security measures at their school. Schools seeking assistance need to apply and will be vetted based on set criteria, before selection.
- Alarm systems. Another measure by which WCED’s Environmental Programmes seek to improve the physical safety of schools in the Western Cape, is through advising schools to implement comprehensive alarms systems, linked to an effective Armed Response company.
2. Developmental Programmes
The Safe Schools Developmental Programmes aim to support, modify and influence parent, educator and learner behaviour at school.
- Interventions to address and mitigate risks to educators and their property, while at work. These interventions include procedures for addressing and responding to cases where a) learners pose a risk to the educator; b) where outsiders pose a risk to the educator; and/or c) where the educator is at risk while facilitating extra-mural activities. Further, the Developmental Programmes outline procedures for addressing and responding to cases where an educator’s property is at risk due to crime and violence, while the educator is at work. An Employee Wellness Programme is available to Educators via a toll-free number (0800 111 011).
- Interventions to support, modify and influence behaviour. The Safe Schools Programme has developed a number of behaviour modification programmes which can be implemented in schools, particularly schools in high risk areas. The Safe Schools District Coordinators, Directorate Specialised Education Support, NGOs and CBOs can offer these programmes, on request. The behaviour modification programme topics include the following: a) effective behaviour management, b) creative and constructive approaches to conflict resolution, c) mediation in school communities, d) gang prevention education parent workshops, e) mentorship programmes, f) diversion programmes, g) youth development, h) victim empowerment, and i) multi-cultural education.
3. Systems Programmes
The Safe Schools Systems Programmes focus on incorporating a holistic approach to change how the whole school operates as far as safety is concerned .
- Addressing and Responding to Gang Violence
- In certain areas of the Western Cape, gang violence poses a significant risk to learners and educators. This includes gang activity in the broader community which threatens learners and educators on their way to and from school, as well as gang activity which takes place on the school premises. Further, this gang activity not only threatens learner and educator well-being, but it negatively impacts on teaching and learning.
- The WCED has outlined certain procedures to follow when it is determined that it is necessary to close a school as a result of gang violence.
- Ensuring that schools are dangerous object free zones. In keeping with South African Schools Act 84 of 1996: Regulations for Safety Measures at Public Schools, all schools should announce that they are dangerous object free zones. Further, in keeping with the Firearms Control Act’s (Act No.60 of 2000) provision for firearm free zones, all schools in the Western Cape should seek to ensure that they are firearm free zones. The WCED has a procedure which outlines how schools can go about ensuring that they are firearm free zones.
- Conducting searches for illicit substances and dangerous objects. If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that there are weapons or illegal substances on a particular school property or on someone at the school, they are allowed to undertake a search of the school or the person, without needing a warrant to conduct the search. Further, Paragraph 4(3) of the Regulations for Safety Measures at Public Schools, allows for a police officer, or in their absence, a principal or delegate to undertake a search of the school premises or a person on the school premises if they strongly suspect that their may be a dangerous object or illegal substances. It is important, however, to ensure that the conducting of searches and seizures is clearly outlined in a school’s Code of Conduct and Safety Plan. There are also very specific procedures which need to be adhered to if a search is conducted, to ensure that the rights of the individual being searched are in no way violated.
How we do it
The Safe Schools approach to school safety
In keeping with a whole-of-society approach to safety promotion and violence prevention, ensuring learner safety in the Western Cape is the collective responsibility of numerous stakeholders. These stakeholders include the WCED, SAPS, the Department of Community Safety, and the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement division. In addition, in line with the National School Safety Framework, the Safe Schools Programme advocates a whole-of-school approach to school safety. The whole-of-school approach identifies that ensuring safety in schools is also the role of principles, educators, school governing bodies and learners. Consequently, the WCED requires all schools, in collaboration with their cluster safety committees, to develop a sustainable integrated safety plan for their school and ensure the implementation and monitoring of this plan.
The Safe Schools’ Nine Step Planning Process
The Safe Schools Programme has a Nine Point Safe Schools Planning Process, which all schools in the Western Cape are required to implement. Schools can request the assistance of the Safe Schools Coordinator, if they need support in implementing this planning process. The purpose behind this planning process is for schools to develop a community-orientated problem-solving culture, in keeping with the whole-of-school approach to violence prevention and safety promotion in schools. The nine steps which each school must undertake in the planning process are detailed below:
Step 1: Establish a School Safety Committee.
Step 2: Make safety part of the school’s vision.
Step 3: Conduct a safety audit at the school.
Step 4: Set major objectives.
Step 5: Develop a comprehensive safety plan which includes:
- Contingency Plan
- Industrial Action Contingency Plan (IACP)
- Disaster Management Preparedness Plan
- Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
Step 6: Select and implement strategies.
Step 7: Conduct an audit of service providers in the area.
Step 8: Create cluster structures.
The district Safe Schools Coordinator will assist in this regard.
Step 9: Evaluate and assess progress periodically as determined by the School Safety Committee.
Safe Schools and Crisis Management
Although the WCED has implemented measures to mitigate crises in schools, the WCED also has numerous strategies for supporting schools in dealing with crises, should they occur. These support strategies include:
- Support to school communities in their efforts to reclaim and regain control of the situation.
- Trauma debriefing and counselling.
- Introduction of intervention programmes to identify root causes, and preventative measures to contain any situation.
- Extension or addition of any necessary security mechanisms.
- Enlisting the assistance of law enforcement agencies.
In order to access this support, schools should contact the Safe Schools' Call Centre.
The Safe Schools Call Centre
Toll-free number: 0800 45 46 47
The WCED’s Safe Schools Call Centre is part of the Safe Schools Programme. The Call Centre’s number is toll-free. The Call Centre provides a central point whereby educators, learners and parents can report violence, abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, vandalism and/or complaints regarding corruption in schools. The Call Centre also provides information on the following topics: abortion, alcoholism, drug abuse, HIV/Aids, racism and pregnancy. The Centre's staff are able to provide initial on-line counselling for callers who need help. If further assistance is required, callers are referred to experts. The Safe Schools Call Centre operates from Mondays to Fridays between 8:00 and 19:30. Weekend calls are recorded and responded to on Monday mornings. The Call Centre's operators provide assistance in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.
What we have learned
When facilitating school based crime prevention the following need to be in place:
- Proper structures
- Relevant policies
- Appropriate role players/ stakeholders
- Safety Audits need to be undertaken
- Implementation of monitoring and evaluation
- Ownership by school staff and the local community in the school safety process
The Structures in the school must:
- Be functioning
- Be properly constituted
- Conduct regular minuted meetings
- Have constant follow-up and feedback
- Monitor and evaluate programmes
Important functioning structures include:
- A School Management Team
- A School Governing Body
- A School Safety Committee
- A Representative Council of Learners
- A Community Policing Forum
- Sector Policing
Relevant Policies which need to be implemented, include and are not limited to:
- A Code of Conduct
- Policy on Bullying
- Policy on Access Control
- Policy on Cellphones
- Policy on Search and Seizures
- Policy on Learner Attendance
- Policies on Occupational Health and Safety – Contingency
For further information on the Safe Schools Programme, please contact:
Oscar Keith Apollis, Safe Schools Manager, Western Cape Department of Education:
- Tel: +27 (0)21 467 2970
- Email: Oscar.Apollis@westerncape.gov.za
Nazeem Sheik Ismail, DCES, Western Cape Department of Education:
- Tel: +27 (0)21 467 9367
- Email: Nazeem.Sheik-Ismail@westerncape.gov.za
The content for this project profile was largely drawn from WCED's 2017 Procedural Manual ''Education Safety Managment: Safe Schools''. Special thanks to Oscar Keith Apollis, Bronagh Hammond, Nazeem Sheik Ismail and Yvahn Gerwel of WCED, for informing the content of this profile.