get in Touch
get in Touch

How Does Access Control for Schools Work? (Simple Guide)

Elliot Blackler February 3, 2022 8 min read

As the technology we deploy changes and the security methods are updated, the educational sector needs to get on board with the shift towards the future. As a whole, schools often deploy outdated technologies and are reluctant to change. 

When it comes to universities, there is often a much higher percentage of newer technologies and security methods installed across the campuses.

This is down to a lot of factors such as higher funding, room for growth and innovation, larger departments and teams responsible for security, installing access control, and assessing the viability of these types of projects.

In this guide, we will be covering access control and its usage in schools, higher education and academia as a whole. We will be looking at the background of access control for schools, how it is deployed, the benefits, and a summary of the industry as a whole.

  • Access Control for Schools 101
  • Access Control for Schools Components
  • How Does Access Control for Schools Work?
  • Access Control for Schools Benefits 
  • Final Thoughts on Access Control for Schools

Short on time? Download our Nortech Access Control Comparison

What is Access Control for Schools?

Deploying an access control system on the campus is often not the first form of access control that students and staff have come across in their daily lives. In fact, a lot of gyms use access control systems, which are typically the gates or barriers you will find in a 24-hour gym. 

When it comes to accommodation, access control technology is often used for halls of residence. A lot of students have used a type of access control without even knowing it, typically they will use key fob access control devices or smart cards which will digitally unlock and lock their doors.

These are just two ways that access control can be used on a campus, there are a lot of different types of access control that can be used and installed within an educational environment. 


Key Components of Access Control for Schools

As each access control system is a little bit different, it is hard to create a component list that would encompass all of the nuances. However, we will quickly cover some of the key parts that are used in most, if not all, of the various system types.

User Credential - this is the access token given to the user that allows them entry to secure areas. This can be a key fob, a credit card sized ID (sometimes even their student or staff ID), or another form of physical token that digitally determines their authorisation to get into a location.

Reader/Scanner - the device that the user will present their credential to which allows for the digital information to be read (in a split second) and authorisation is determined with access being denied or approved. 

Access Control Software - the software is the hub where the access control system is managed and where a lot of different functions can be performed, from resetting access, removing a card’s access, writing new cards, or other administrative functions.

Norpass PDF Comparison

Reset or Renewal Pad - you may have seen these when you check into a hotel and the concierge or receptionist taps your room keycard onto the system by their terminal. This transfers the data to your keycard and gives you access on this card. 

Locations to Secure - it may sound rudimentary, but for an access control system to work, you need ‘X’ amount of doors or areas to keep secure, without these there is effectively no reason for having an access control installation on the campus.


How Access Control for Schools Works

Due to the sheer number of different access control options that can be deployed within schools, we will be briefly looking at several of these access control technologies and how they can be installed and used in an educational environment.  

These are by no means all of the options of access control for schools but they are some of the most commonly deployed. Needless to say, each school will have its own challenges, budget, and issues to solve that will make one access control or another more viable for their property. 

Physical Access Control 

The term physical access control encompasses a few different types of access control and security methods. In short, this form of access control uses a physical barrier to keep a location secure, this can be a gate, a barrier, or even a door or turnstile. 

Physical access control defines anything that literally restricts access to a location, this can be done much easier on a smaller campus or school which has more natural entry and exit points.

When it comes to a larger campus or university the actual locations are often secured and walkways are left unobstructed. 

Key Fob Access Control

One of the types of access control that can easily be used on a campus is key fob access control.

As the name suggests, a small key fob sized credential is given to a user that will be tapped against a reader to unlock a door, open a gate or barrier, or access an area.

Often thought of as one of the most user friendly options in the access control market, key fob access control is not only easy to use but also simple to manage, making it perfect for schools and the education sector.

Proximity Access Control 

As the name suggests, proximity access control is a form of school security that is triggered when someone with credentials is within ‘X’ radius of the reader and presents their token.

Normally it is only a short read range (up to 15cm or so), meaning, the user has to be, you’ve guessed it, in close proximity to the reader. 

Proximity access control can use a range of different tokens, one of the most popular for schools is a student or staff ID that doubles as their credential and form of identification too.

Locker Access Control 

An area that more and more schools and universities are looking at moving into is the digitalisation of locker security, in the form of access control systems. 

A lot of theme parks have moved to this form of lockers as opposed to the archaic methods such as combination locks or metal keys. Schools are slower to adapt but have started to move into utilising access control solutions for students’ lockers.


Other Access Control Types Relevant to Schools

Biometric Access Control

One of the less commonly used types of access control when it comes to schools and the education sector is biometric access control.

Often associated with spy films and science fiction books the actual technology is very grounded in reality and used quite widely in security systems. 

Due to the higher access control system cost and niche nature of biometric access control, it is less used in schools but can still be a viable choice for areas that need to be more highly controlled and secured.

Examples of areas that could use biometric access control could be labs, technology storage, or medical areas.

Anti Passback

Anti Passback technology is a part of an access control system that means that students and other users cannot share their credentials and reuse their token again within ‘X’ amount of time. 

Obviously, this can be manually overridden if there is a valid case such as a student forgetting something in their car and reusing the same entrance again. 

Think of this as something that can be included in other types of access control and not as its own access control system.


Benefits of Access Control for Schools

There are countless benefits that access control for schools can provide. Due to the various access control systems that could be deployed in a school, we have broken down some of the overarching benefits of access control into three sections.

These sections are user experience, management/general, and security. 

User Benefits of Access Control for Schools

Simple to Use 

From a user standpoint, access control systems are actually easier to use than a lock and key due to them normally being as easy as tapping your access control device on the reader or scanner. 


If you lose a metal key, it can be a lot more stressful and annoying to deal with. You have to call a locksmith and get a new key and sometimes a lock too. As opposed to an access control system where the old credential can be deactivated and a new one made for the student or staff.


One of the best parts of access control devices from a user perspective is the fact that they are all very small, be that a key fob that can be attached to a keyring or a smart card that can be kept in a wallet or on a phone card holder.

Security Benefits of Access Control for Schools

Day Time Security

Although people think of an access control system as a way to help manage people and locations with ease, it is primarily a security system that can keep the campus secure in the day. Ensuring unwanted visitors cannot gain access to the buildings or even onsite at all.

Cannot Be Duplicated 

Unlike a traditional key, a user’s credential cannot be easily duplicated. The management software is the only place it can be remade or duplicated. As opposed to taking a key to a locksmith, an automated key machine, or getting one cut.

Out of Hours Security

With doors and areas secured by access control systems you will have less to worry outside of hours. When it comes to higher education, campuses are often awake 24/7 so having pre-authorised users (students and staff) able to quickly access buildings and areas around the clock is helpful.

General Benefits of Access Control for Schools

Easily Managed 

Due to the innovative software used, managing a school’s access control system is very simple. Allowing for a lot of customisation and flexibility are two of the major benefits of utilising an access control system in schools.


Having an access control system in your school allows for a much safer environment for everyone and can help incident investigations and be used in emergency situations (i.e. unlocking all exit doors in a fire).

Limit Access

Being able to have full control over the security of your school is an incredibly important feature of access control systems. Being able to limit and restrict access to different areas and at differing times allows for a huge amount of flexibility and viability. 


Summary - Access Control for Schools

As we can see, there are a lot of viable options for a school of any size to deploy some form of access control, whether it's for keeping storage rooms secure, granting students access to the library or different buildings on campus, allowing after hours access to a certain area or building, and even getting onto campus at all. 

Each educational institution will have its own challenges, needs, and wants when it comes to deploying these security and people access control measures.

Choosing an access control system can be difficult, but it does not have to be, we have tailored our website and blogs to be informative and accessible to anyone, so, feel free to browse our extensive content to learn more about the topics.

If you are interested in exploring the access control options for your school or educational institution, reach out to our team of experts who will be more than happy to help you determine the best choices for your school’s security and access control.

  • Don’t forget to share this article:

Why Should You Trust Us?

It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

Please consider subscribing or adding to the conversation in the comments below. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our resource centre.

Elliot Blackler

Elliot is the in-house content specialist at Nortech and runs all aspects of the resource hub. He's passionate about UK manufacturing and how modern content marketing can help bring light to complex industries.

Elliot works extensively with the Nortech team to shine a light on the access control industry for both installers and end users. Always keen to improve, feel free to email him on new content suggestions or feedback!

table of contents

Read our latest articles

Integrating Biometrics with Access Control: A Guide for Installers

Access control has been an evolving field, the shift from lock and key to card swipes was a milestone, but we're on the brink of another seismic shift: Biometric Access Control.


Choose the Right Access Control Card Reader Type for Your Business

In an age where cyber threats often dominate headlines, the importance of physical security measures like access control systems should never be underestimated.


Access Control for Parking: Best Practices and Systems

Parking areas, often considered as mere extensions of the premises they serve, are more than just spaces for vehicles. They are critical zones that require security and efficient management.