25 Jul 2012

Skyguard is pleased to be working with the City of Edinburgh Council in implementing a pioneering initiative to help school pupils with special needs. The Independent Travel Scheme aims to give hundreds of students ...

Skyguard is pleased to be working with the City of Edinburgh Council in implementing a pioneering initiative to help school pupils with special needs. The Independent Travel Scheme aims to give hundreds of students the opportunity to travel independently without the need for school transport, which allows them the chance to go to college to complete further education courses and build a career.

Back in late 2010, the council began trialling Skyguard’s service with two young students from Pilrig Park School. By carrying the GEMshield personal safety device, the students were able to travel to and from school without direct supervision. Traditionally special needs pupils are taught self travel by teachers who have to accompany them over an average eight week period. However, thanks to the GEMshield device, the need for staff to accompany them is eliminated and training is completed a lot quicker, with teachers able to train more pupils.

Craig Nibloe, one of the first students to trial this scheme said, “I always wanted to get the bus to school by myself but wasn’t able to. I’m really pleased I can now do that on my own and go to college.”

The pupils carry the pocket-sized device whilst the teacher is able to rely on Skyguard’s online customer portal to pinpoint their location. The device can also be used as mobile phone allowing pupil and teacher to call each other. An SOS button provides vital backup in an emergency, allowing trained controllers at Skyguard’s 24/7 Incident Management Centre to immediately locate the student, talk to him if it’s safe to do so, and follow their personalised escalation procedures such as contacting the teacher, family members or the emergency services as appropriate.

Now, the City of Edinburgh Council’s aim is to give the same freedom and independence to every special needs pupil across the city. By creating the Independent Travel Scheme, the Council, in collaboration with Skyguard is helping many students enjoy the same freedom.

Pilrig Park School head teacher Ellen Muir was full of praise for the Skyguard solution. She said: “Self travel training is always time-consuming for our staff but this technology means we can concentrate on those pupils who need a higher level of support and train more children to gain more confidence and become independent.”

“One of the biggest pluses is that students need to be able to self travel so they can attend college so now we should have more taking up further education with more career opportunities being opened up.”

Linda Ellis, the mother of Peter, one of the students, went on to praise the initiative. “I feel as though it’s made a huge difference to his life. It’s made Peter more confident and aware that he can use the device to get in touch with people. Without it, I don’t think he would have been as confident.”

Bill Lothian, a Learning Assistant from Edinburgh has spearheaded the campaign for greater independence for special needs students. Bill works directly with the pupils and has already tutored them as part of the Initiative. Bill said, “To witness first-hand how this has benefitted the students is truly overwhelming. Travelling on our own is something we take for granted, but this wasn’t possible for these youngsters. However, thanks to Skyguard, they’ve been given the freedom to do so and now they feel so much more confident in themselves as to what they can achieve.”

Previously, the Council were spending over £8 million per year on helping pupils across the city travel to school. With this new initiative in place, the cost savings are set to be substantial – crucial at a time when public sector spending is constantly being squeezed.

And it doesn’t stop there. As City of Edinburgh Councillor Paul Edie states “We have also received a huge amount of interest in this initiative from other Councils and are working with a number of them to deploy similar schemes across the UK.”

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Skyguard's Incident Management Centre

Skyguard's Incident Management Centre

All of Skyguard’s state-of-the-art personal safety devices link to our own purpose built UK based, 24/7 Incident Management Centre certified to the highest lone working industry standards (BS 8484, BS 5979 Category II). At the core of Skyguard’s personal safety service is our state-of-the-art, UK based, 24/7 Incident Management Centre (IMC). Here our highly-trained and experienced controllers respond to lone worker alarms and manage life-threatening emergencies on a daily basis. They summon the emergency services and our own National Response Service every day on behalf of our customers. Yet only a fraction of these have proved to be false alarms due to their rigorous training and the procedures they follow.

On behalf of our police customers alone, our IMC has protected an estimated 6,000 victims of domestic abuse, kidnapping and those on witness protection programmes. Many of these have led to arrests and successful prosecutions in court, facilitated by our audio recordings of incidents and the speed of police response that our service provided.

Our IMC became the first in the UK to be certified to the new Lone Worker Monitoring Service standard: BS 8484, which included the highest standard for Alarm Receiving Centres: BS 5979 (Category II).

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