Lack of sprinklers in schools ‘terrifying’
FIGURES REVEALED by Labour found that ‘fewer than one in six’ new schools have been built with sprinkler systems installed, despite official government guidance stating they should.
The Guardian reported on the findings from Labour, which outlined that of 673 schools built under the current government’s school building scheme, sprinklers were only fitted in 105, despite government guidance stating that all new schools should have them ‘except […] a few low-risk schools’. In turn, one in 15 free schools approved by the government had been built with sprinklers, a ‘far lower rate’ than other types of schools.
These figures were found by Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, with the political party warning that the lack of sprinklers ‘was putting children and staff at unacceptable risk’, with over 7,000 fires recorded in educational premises in the last 10 years. She stated: ‘It beggars belief that we even have to debate having the highest standards of fire safety in schools but clearly that is yet another victim of this government’s obsession with austerity.’
In turn, trade union GMB’s national officer for schools Nadine Houghton called the figures ‘absolutely terrifying’, and commented: ‘How can we trust ministers with our safety when they have a shameful track record of fighting to remove a requirement for new schools to be protected by installing sprinklers? Money that is spent on dealing with the aftermath of fires should be being spent on basic prevention such as sprinklers.’
A Department for Education spokesperson responded: ‘The safety of pupils and staff in our schools is paramount. Schools are fundamentally safe places and are designed to be evacuated as quickly as possible. All schools are required to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment and to conduct regular fire drills. All new school buildings must be signed off by an inspector to certify that they meet the requirements of building regulations and where sprinklers are considered necessary, they must be installed.’