Fire Safety in Schools Under Risk

17 October 2016

The National Union of Teachers and the Fire Brigade Union have today written to Justine Greening strongly criticising her Department's policy on sprinklers in schools.

Not only has the 'expectation' that sprinklers be fitted to new schools been removed from its own guidance but the Department for Education has refused to divulge which, if any, organisations supported this short-sighted and retrograde step during the recent consultation exercise. NUT and FBU have called upon the Government to be open and transparent and justify the basis upon which this decision was made.

The benefits of sprinklers are numerous and include the following:

  • Suppression of the growth of fires which increases the time for, and likelihood of, safe and early evacuation of pupils, staff and other persons from the building;
  • Reduced fire damage to asbestos containing materials, which are present in the majority of schools, thus reducing the likelihood of asbestos exposure to fire and rescue personnel, pupils and staff;
  • Less damage to the building which in turn saves capital and revenue costs associated with the aftermath;
  • Less disruption to the education of pupils and aids the protection of pupils' work and teaching resources that have been built up over years.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said: "The Government's change of policy on sprinklers is illogical and this is only compounded by the secrecy around who actually supported the change. Failure to provide this information gives the impression that the consultation was not undertaken in good faith and that the decision had already been taken."

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "The Government's decision to remove sprinklers from all newly built schools is irresponsible, dangerous and a false economy. School fires can not only be devastating, but the effects very long lasting - it can take months if not years for the school to be rebuilt following a fire which means children's education is disrupted. Many schools provide much needed facilities for local communities, which will also be under threat if sprinklers are no longer provided. The Secretary of State for Education needs to admit the Government was wrong on this issue, and reintroduce the expectation that all newly built schools will have sprinklers. Anything less is putting teachers' and children's lives at risk alongside their right to an uninterrupted education, whilst putting the lives of firefighters at risk as well."

The full text of the letter is here.

Teachers Building Society