10 September 2019
Figures released by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) have shown that one in seven schools is a high fire risk.
The figures emerged less than two weeks after a blaze almost destroyed Woodmill High School in Dunfermline.
There are 2500 schools in Scotland and the figures suggest around 15% (375) are at high or very high risk of fire.
SFRS inspectors carried out almost 8000 risk assessments in public buildings last year, including at 470 schools. They found that 66 schools (14%) were high risk and three (1%) were very high risk, the highest total in five years.
Sprinklers, but not smoke detectors, are mandatory in all new schools and two years ago, the same cladding used on Grenfell Tower was found on a number of school buildings in Scotland, including two in Aberdeen. Furthermore, in 2016 a report in Edinburgh found defective fire prevention across all 17 schools built under a controversial PPI contract.
Liz Smith, shadow education secretary, said: “We have seen the devastation caused by the fire at Woodmill High School, so it is very concerning to find out that a high number of other schools have been found to be at high risk of fire. This raises serious questions about the maintenance of the schools estate in Scotland, most especially with regard to older school buildings.
“The safety of our staff and young people is paramount. The SNP has a duty to ensure essential fire safety measures are in place in all our schools, and that they are regularly inspected.”
As well as schools, SFRS inspectors visited care homes, hospitals, hotels, colleges, offices, pubs and other public buildings last year. In total, 1048 were judged to be at high risk and 52 at very high risk.
Assistant Chief Officer Ross Haggart, the SFRS’s director of prevention and protection, said: “While local authorities and duty holders who operate premises, such as schools and hotels, have overall responsibility for the provision of fire safety measures, we are especially keen to support duty holders to reduce risk by increasing awareness of their ultimate responsibility for ensuring that their premises remain safe from fire.”
A Scottish government spokesman said fire safety in schools was of “paramount importance”, adding that officials “will continue to work with local authorities and other partners including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ensure our schools remain safe”.