This letter and its response appeared in the May/June edition of the NUT Magazine "The Teacher":
Q. In my school, the car park gates are locked at lunch time, meaning staff can’t leave the premises. Is this reasonable?
A. No, as it effectively prevents staff from leaving the school grounds during their lunch break, other than on foot. Teachers have an entitlement to a lunch break of reasonable length and should not be hindered from leaving the premises if they wish to do so. There may be good reasons why they need to use their cars during this time.
If this decision was taken for safety reasons, for example to separate pedestrians and cars, or as a measure to prevent pupils from leaving the site, it is an over-zealous response.
The solution would be to restrict pupils from the area and install automatic gates which can be operated by staff with a security code. If this is not viable then the gates should be supervised by premises staff to allow the free exit and entry of all employees during their lunch break.
It is also essential that emergency services have access to the school site at all times.
In many schools it is common for car arrival and departure to be limited to certain times, such as before the arrival and after the departure of pupils. That is reasonable, but staff should not be locked in at lunchtime.