Principals prepared for lockdown

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by Greta Yeoman

Almost six months since the Christchurch mosque shootings sent schools into lockdown for several hours, South Canterbury school principals say they feel prepared for a lockdown incident.

The March 15 shootings at two Christchurch mosques, where one gunman killed 51 people and injured dozens more, prompted a citywide lockdown of schools and other education centres.

The Ministry of Education commissioned an independent report following the shootings into lockdown procedures of education centres, particularly informed by schools that went into lockdown on March 15.

South Canterbury Kindergarten Association manager Dave Hawkey praised the ministry document as a “really comprehensive” report.

He said most kindergartens were well set up because facilities, including toilets, were often in one building.

The association had made some procedure and policy changes, including installing a security bolt at height, that was only to be used in a lockdown, Mr Hawkey said.

The “next step” would be practising drills with the young pupils in the association’s 12 kindergartens, but teachers were at present working through how this would be undertaken.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie College has taken a slightly different approach regarding lockdown preparations.

Principal Jason Reid said while every staff member knew “exactly” what their role was if a lockdown was to occur, pupils were kept unaware of the “detailed plan”

“Staff know exactly what to do.”

Pleasant Point Primary School principal Mark Creba said the school had regular lockdown practises alongside earthquake and fire drills.

A drill last term had allowed the school to test its amended lockdown procedures, he said.

The school had been “well-prepared” for a low-level lockdown in early August, due to a police incident in a nearby street, Mr Creba said.

Canterbury West Coast Secondary Principals’ Association president Phil Holstein said while the March 15 lockdown was “unprecedented and citywide”, it had reminded schools to review their plans.

“Every school should be looking at this.”

South Canterbury Primary Principals’ Association president and Gleniti School principal Steve Zonnevylle said the Christchurch lockdown had shown how important communication with parents and caregivers was.

One way parents and caregivers could help with preparations was doing “simple things” like checking contact details were up-to-date, he said.

Gleniti had undergone two lockdown drills in term 1 following the Christchurch shootings.

Mr Zonnevylle reminded people that lockdowns could also be due to a chemical leak, rogue dog or some other incident.

As the Ministry report reminded school staff, procedures in these situations were often guidelines – “adaptive leadership” was also needed, he said.

Mr Holstein echoed this, saying even across Christchurch, procedures had differed between schools depending on where they were in relation to the shootings.

His school, Burnside High School, in northwest Christchurch had allowed pupils to access toilets close to classrooms as they knew they were not at immediate risk.