THE DECISION to abandon the requirement for new schools to be equipped with fire sprinklers has been heavily criticised by a Coventry Councillor.
Coun Bally Singh, a representative for the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, raised the issue at a planning forum and believes the ‘undercover’ decision to scrap the initial policy is a poor one.
Introduced in 2007 by Labour Schools Minister Jim Knight, the policy aimed to tackle the issue of fire spreading throughout school buildings – putting staff and students at unnecessary risk.
The new policy states that schools will only be equipped with fire sprinklers should a fire safety inspection deem it necessary to do so.
An update from the Department of Education’s Design in Fire Safety in Schools stated: “Building regulations do not require the installation of fire sprinklers in school buildings for life safety.
“Therefore there is no longer an expectation for new school buildings to be fitted with fire sprinklers.”
Mr Singh told The Observer the Government’s behaviour is arrogant and acts against the advice of both fire and teaching professionals.
He added: “This undercover move from the government risks the safety of all at our schools.
“Since 2007 all new schools have had guidance to install sprinklers – they not only save lives but also prevent fires.
“However, the government are planning to take us back to an era when new schools didn’t need life-saving sprinkler systems.
“I will seek urgent clarification on this matter from the government, and see whether there is any chance that such a reckless move can be reversed.”
Despite Coun Singh’s concerns, a Department for Education spokesperson denied that the policy is changing the rules on fire safety.
They said: “All new schools must comply with building and fire safety regulations.
“Where it is concluded that sprinklers must be fitted to protect property or keep children safe, they will be.
“It has never been compulsory for sprinklers to be fitted in schools.
“The proposed change is simply to clarify the guidance.
“We are considering the responses to our consultation and will respond in due course.”