A Labour government is committed to ensuring that sprinkler systems are installed in all new schools even as new figures reveal that less than a third of schools that the central government has either refurbished or built since 2010 have installed them.
Party officials have stated that if Labour is elected, it would eliminate a “loophole” in the current law, which they claim allows a sizeable percentage of schools not to install sprinklers.
Schools Minister Discloses Worrying Figures
The announcement comes just after Nick Gibb, schools minister disclosed new figures this month in a response to a written parliamentary question in the Commons.
Gibb stated that since 2010, out of the 260 schools that the Department for Education (DfE) commissioned under the first phase of the Priority School Building Programme, just 74 have installed or are planning to install sprinkler systems.
It means that the majority of schools on the programme, which aims to refurbish and rebuild school buildings in the worst conditions throughout the country won’t have sprinklers installed. The Government had hoped that a majority of the schools would open before the end of 2017.
Gibb also stated that the Department for Education doesn’t hold comprehensive data on the number of free schools that have sprinkles installed since the schools under the programme were managed originally by the individual free proposer groups.
In Wales and Scotland, sprinklers are currently mandatory, but not in Northern Ireland and England despite fire chiefs warning that the Government is playing with the lives of children last year and called for all the new and refurbished schools to get them installed.
Earlier in the month, unions were angered by the decision to reconstruct Selsey Academy located in West Sussex without sprinklers after a fire almost destroyed the building completely in 2016. The Fire Brigades Union termed it as “incomprehensible” and stated that the government had a shockingly callous attitude towards fire safety.
The Stance of the Department for Education on Fire Sprinklers
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that schools have a variety of fire protection measures while new schools undergo an additional check when being designed. The DfE also stated that sprinklers must be installed in areas where they are considered necessary to ensure the safety of children. It is advised that schools contact fire sprinkler installation companies, like TPT Fire, immediately for a review.
The DfE stated that it had contacted all bodies responsible for school safety since the Grenfell tragedy and instructed them to perform checks to identify buildings that require further investigation.
Corbyn is demanding £1 billion for the installation of sprinklers in all the social high-rises and stated that they are working closely with the schools where the ACM classing of probable concern has been identified to ensure that the remedial action required is actually taken.
The DfE even added that any new school buildings have to be signed off an independent inspector to ascertain that they do meet the set guidelines and are designed to offer protection to occupants and allow them to escape in case of a fire.
The current regulations presuppose that new schools ought to have sprinklers installed except in cases where the building may be regarded as “low-risk”. Labour has stated that it will change this to make sure that all new builds have sprinkler systems installed.
Under the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme, an additional 277 schools will be rebuilt. However, Gibb has said that since they are currently in the early design stage, it still isn’t clear which ones might actually require sprinklers at this time.
Labour has also raised additional concerns about ministers “neglecting” the existing school feats and instead relying on funds on the free schools programme instead of maintaining or improving existing building after a January 2015 report from the government claimed that 7,831 “education blocks” were constructed prior to 1919.