The National Education Union and the Fire Brigades Union have written to education secretary Damian Hinds asking why schools – including one at the base of Grenfell Tower – have been classed as being at too “low risk” to be given fire sprinklers, reports Tes.
The unions accuse the government of “paying lip service” to its own fire safety guidance, and “allowing it to be routinely flouted in the rush to build new schools as cheaply as possible”.
They point to government guidance that states all new schools should have sprinklers fitted “except in a few low risk schools”.
However, Selsey Academy in West Sussex, which burned down in 2016 , is being re-built without sprinkler systems fitted, the unions say, adding: “This is not an isolated case.”
Kensington Aldridge Academy, based below Grenfell Tower, also has no sprinkler system, the unions state. They say: “We would question how a large multi-storey secondary school in central London could possibly have been assessed as one of ‘a few low risk schools’. “
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Grenfell Tower should have been a defining moment in the way we view safety in public buildings but it seems that health and safety is still seen as an opportunity to cut corners and save money.”
The cost of fitting sprinklers represents a very low investment when weighed against the potential threat to life, the damage to buildings and the disruption of children’s education if there is a fire in a school. It is essential that the government act immediately to make it a legal requirement for sprinklers to be fitted in all new school buildings.”
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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