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'More than just bricks and mortar'

One headteacher who recognises the urgent need for sprinklers is Reg Herring, of Frith Manor school in Barnet, north west London.

He was called to a fire at the school in the 2002 summer holidays, a few weeks before he started the job. By the time he arrived, the blaze had spread to three-quarters of the school, destroying 12 classrooms, an ICT room, toilets and an administration block.

"The damage was unbelievable," he said. "Some teachers lost a lifetime's collection of educational resources which were irreplaceable," he said.

"Many of the 640 children also lost their work and belongings as all the surrounding buildings were badly affected by severe smoke damage."

It has taken four years to rebuild the new school, which now has sprinklers, and cost pound;7.5 million.

"It seems like a false economy not to have something that could save the time and effort following a fire," he said. "School buildings are a lot more than just bricks and mortar."

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