According to Zurich Municipal, which insures about half of all schools and universities in the UK, has carried out inspections at 1,000 schools and academies over the past two years. As a result of these inspections, they claim that about two-thirds of schools in England have poor fire protection systems and are not properly prepared for a potential fire.
They claim that only 5% of the schools inspected in England were awarded an “excellent” rating, while 67% of such schools were rated as having “poor” fire protection systems. As a contrast, the figure for Scottish schools rated as excellent was 29%.
Sprinklers in schools: a North-South divide
In Scotland, sprinkler systems are legally required in all new and major refurbished schools. In England, sprinklers are not mandatory in all schools and fewer than one in six new schools have been built with systems installed.
There are more than 1,000 fires in school premises every year, costing on average £2.8m for larger incidents. The effect is closing premises not just for pupils but also the wider community, which often uses the space out of school hours.
A spokesman for Zurich Municipal said:
A change in government legislation to make sprinklers in schools mandatory not only protects children while they are in school, it often contains the fire to the room it starts in when it happens out of school hours.
Not only does this minimise the level of damage caused, it also negates the aftermath, which often leads to months or even years of disruption for children’s education while the school is repaired.
This is a view echoed by the Fire Brigades Union, whose General Secretary (Andy Dark) said:
We’ve made it clear in the past that newly built schools and other high-risk buildings should have sprinkler systems and we fully support Zurich Municipal’s call on the government to change the law to make them mandatory.
Ideally, sprinklers would be fitted in all schools of whatever age and size. Sprinklers can assist in limiting the spread of fire, the damage it will cause and giving occupants additional time to escape, as well as reducing the risks faced by firefighters attending the incident.