Views sought on cladding and sprinkler use in schools

Views sought on cladding and sprinkler use in schools

THE GOVERNMENT, via the Department for Education (DfE), is ‘inviting views’ on how best to update fire safety design guidance in schools as part of the review of building regulations.

Schools Week reported on the governmental call for evidence – open until 31 May - which asks for stakeholder views including from architects, fire safety experts and building firms on guidance, which currently falls under the building bulleting 100: design for fire safety in schools. Any responses received, with the call also asking ‘what extra measures are needed in special schools and residential provision’, will be used to update the guidance – and which will go out for consultation later in 2019.

The DfE was said to be wanting to know ‘if combustible cladding should be banned from use in all new school buildings over 18 metres high’, as well as on ‘design opportunities or limitations of sprinklers and safe fire escape approaches in schools with multiple storeys’. The non statutory guidance sits alongside statutory guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which is also under review post Hackitt.

Lord Agnew, Academies Minister, stated that it was ‘vitally important’ that school buildings ‘continue to be built to the highest standards of fire safety’, adding that: ‘We want to work with experts from across the fire sector and construction industry to ensure our guidance takes into account the latest views and positions on fire safety in schools.’

At this time, the current guidance recommends all schools should have sprinklers other than ‘a few low risk schools’, though in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire it was revealed that the proportion of new schools being built with sprinklers had halved to 35% since 2010, while figures released in February 2018 revealed only 74 of 260 schools rebuilt since the government launched its priority school building programme ‘have, or are planned to have’ sprinklers fitted.