Safeguarding Danger of Schools Radio Communications Activity, by Craig Miles, P.G.C.E
Radio communications enable school staff to communicate using devices such as walkie-talkies, however wrong equipment choice can result in breaches of data protection & safeguarding.
Due to the introduction in the last few years of the licence free radio system, known as ‘PMR 446’ , many schools have chosen these short range handheld radios, as they offer a cost effective solution to their communication needs.
Professional PMR 446 radios are often advertised as having ‘private channels’, which is reassuring to Head Teachers, who believe that conversations about school business are secure, and free from other users.
The ‘private channel’ is achieved by one of two techniques, known as CTCSS & DCS. These techniques use special signals to only allow you to hear conversations from radios programmed with the same signal setting.
It is a misconception that the channel is private, as the speech being transmitted is often unencrypted, and can be heard by anyone monitoring the channel, for instance if they turned their own ‘private channel’ settings off.
Schools need to check whether their handheld ‘walkie-talkie’ radios are secure, and that their staff are trained in correct usage of radio communications, not only to comply with data protection requirements, but also potential safeguarding issues.