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Educational facilities are public services and facilities which include primary, secondary and third level educational facilities and institutions.


The educational system is a fundamental pillar of social and economic development. The availability of good quality and life-long education is essential in facilitating the emergence of a knowledge-driven and innovative society and economy[1]. It is important within urbam planning that due regard is given to the education system, that it continues to develop and improve on its standards of educational attainment and that it continues to meet the new challenges of society’s fast growing and more diverse needs.

Education facilities can be located within a wide variety of urban contexts, depending upon the stage/level of education which they provide; primary and secondary level schools are generally located within easy reach of large residential populations, while universities are often located centrally within an urban area, or close to well connected transportation interchanges, allowing them to serve a wider population, and making them more attractive to students, graduates and employees alike.



The key social functions of education facilities is in the education for children and students, as well as in the provision of employment to teachers and staff within the facilities themselves. Vulnerability assessment and resilience enhancement for this type of infrastructure should consider that citizens' perception of risk and need to protect may be disproportionately increased because children are involved. Involvement of children is a factor generally found to increase perception of risk. This should be considered in urban planning, and risk/vulnerability assessment methods applied should include citizen participation-based methods in order to address social aspects of built infrastructure dedicated to public services and facilities.


The primary economic function of education facilities is in the education of children and students to the optimum level, allowing them to become valuable and productive members of the workforce. Because of the personal benefits, education links heavily with economic growth due to the increasing global demand for highly skilled labour. Moreover, educational infrastructure creates jobs and income for not only its staff, but also for employees of supplying organisations (i.e. economic impact).

The economic impact of security threats are primarily crime and vandalism related (e.g. anti-social behaviour, child abduction). Crime and vandalism generate costs in anticipation of crime (e.g. locks, surveillance, etc.), as a consequence of crime (loss of/damage to property), and in response to crime (police investigation, legal system, etc.). In addition to this,security measures impose economic impact, but they also can have positive financial effects (see the case example below).

Case example: Cost-effective security programmes for schools

The Department of Education and Training in Western Australia initiated in 1999 a successful security risk management programme helping school principals to evaluate existing security measures and determine cost-effective levels of security to meet the risks faced by their schools [2]. Part of this assessment was the draft of a treatment plan for which the principal provided a description of the school plan, including costs of individual security measures and the applied locations. Examples of types of treatments include procedure changes, target hardening measures, landscape management, lighting, and ownership. The table below illustrates the significant cost reductions that were achieved in 2006 with the help of this security plans:

Table: Cost of crime and number of offences prior and after the implementation of the security plan

Schools Cost of security plan Cost of crime prior to security plan % change cost of crime (due to security plan) Number of offences prior to security plan % change number of offences (due to security plan)
A AUD 26,902 AUD 174,803 -68.74% (AUD 120,160 savings) 166 -39.76% (66 less offences)
B AUD 27,950 AUD 97,662 -65.88% (AUD 64,337 savings) 114 -19.30% (22 less offences)
C AUD 48,807 AUD 96,494 -73.78% (AUD 71,192 savings) 109 -23.85% (26 less offences)
D AUD 27,166 AUD 81,093 -29.52% (AUD 23,936 savings) 96 -13.54% (13 less offences)
E AUD 34,661 AUD 7,222 +218% (AUD 15738 extra costs) 23 +117% (27 more offences)

Source: OECD (2007)[2] Note: The increase in crime at School E is attributed to the theft of computers, an isolated occurrence due to a lack of security in the computer room.


The mobility associated with the different education facilities will vary significantly depending on the type of facility (and the specific age group that it is intended to serve), its location, the availability of public transportation modes and the student population.

Primary schools need good accessibility and parking options for cars, since primary school children are often brought to school by car. Older children at primary schools and secundary schools usually go to school by bicycle or public transport (bus). This also differs per country. While in the Netherlands, most children live close by school and go to school walking or cycling, in other (less densily populated) countries, children are often brought to school with school buses.


Safety functions associated with education, include the usual functions such as:

  • shelter from the environment (weather)
  • prevention and repression of incidents (fires, floods, air quality, etcetera)
  • constructional safety (including the dynamic stresses that large crowds can exert)
  • facilities to assure a timely retreat to a safe environment for the people present in case of incidents (Evacuation Management).

Security Issues

Security issues associated with educational facilities, are related to the presence of valuables, excitement, and groups of young people:

Anti social behaviour can be a problem with education facilities, particularly those which are located within large residential areas; this frequently occurs as the open space (playing fields etc.) which surround them are often out of the general public’s view, and therefore may not benefit from surveillance outside of school hours. Schools also represent a unique threat environment, with the risk of child abduction (however small that risk may be) meaning that the security of the schoolchildren must be of paramount importance at all times.
  • Assault
  • Burglary: colleges and universities are large employers, with employees having access to expensive information technology devices, which can present an easy target for would be thieves.
  • Sexual assault: is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today[3].
  • Vandalism and Graffiti are strongly correlated with the presence of young people. Graffiti offenders are typically young and male[4] and thus likely to be found around schools. Vandalism and break-inns are most common among junior high school studens, and become less frequent as students reach high school[5].

The extent to which the venues are vulnerable depend on the nature of the educational facility and the measures in place to prevent security issues from arising. Elements increasing the likelihood of these security issues to happen and contributing to the vulnerability of educational facilities are:

  • the occurence of crowds
  • the level of excitement in or from school activities
  • the age bracket of the students
  • the level of education (such as university or lower vocational education)
  • the target group of students (such as a school for special education for children with behavioural disorders)
  • the educational schedule (such as day or night school)


The measures for each type of security issue can be found on the respective pages. There are few measures that are generally suited or unsuited to this kind of urban object, but some specific considerations can be mentioned:

Educational facilities are generally very public, which makes measures that restrict access less suited, although there are experiments in schools in the United States with access control by placing metal detectors at the entrances. The ethics and effectiveness of this measure is subject to extensive debate[6].
  • Controlling disinhibitors: schools should ideally be located out of range of known dispensaries of drugs or alcohol.
  • Deflection: such as building blank walls, designed to be covered with graffiti.

General restrictions:

  • Educational facilities are generally meant to be inviting, which makes very visible and impressive measures less suited
  • Educational facilities can play an important role in directing the behaviour of students. Measures which involve rule setting and education are more suited to this environment than elsewhere.

Footnotes and references