15 April 2019
Despite an array of UK organisations and councils expressing the importance of sprinklers in high-rise and public buildings, especially in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, the government have admitted just 15% of new schools are being built with sprinklers.
Government guidance on safe school design says all new premises should be fitted with sprinklers ‘except in a few low-risk schools.’
The Fire Brigades Union said they were showing "utter complacency" on fire safety in schools and accused them of a ‘callous disregard’ for pupils’ safety.
Schools minister Nick Gibb admitted only 105 of the 673 schools built and open by February were fitted with sprinklers, but assured they were installed when ‘considered necessary’.
"We've made it clear that newly-built schools and other high-risk buildings should have sprinkler systems," added the FBU.
"Sprinklers can assist in the control of a fire in its early stages, limiting damage and giving occupants additional time to escape, as well as reducing the risks faced by firefighters attending the incident."
Sprinklers are mandatory in new school buildings in Scotland and Wales but not in England, and the National Education Union (NEU) called it ‘perverse’ that ministers were not enforcing the advice.
The NEU added: "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."
The new data came in response to a question from Labour MP and former teacher Stephanie Peacock, who said, "The ridiculous thing is that we spend far more rebuilding and repairing schools after fires than we would have paid to install sprinklers in the first place."