'Schools have no sprinklers'

10th November 2006 at 00:00
Thousands of schools, including new multi-million pound academies, are at risk of being destroyed by fire because they are not protected by sprinklers.

Only nine of almost 2,500 maintained schools in London have sprinkler systems, according to the London Fire Brigade, which fears the situation is replicated across the country. None of the 11 new academies the brigade has been consulted about has installed the devices.

Around 2,000 schools are damaged by fires every year, resulting in insurance payouts of more than pound;100 million. Fires are started at an average of four London schools a week, the majority by arsonists.

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, has launched a campaign calling for all new and refurbished schools to be fitted with sprinklers.

They believe that the Building Schools for the Future programme, which is spending billions of pounds replacing or refurbishing all secondary schools by 2015, is an opportunity to improve fire safety. They have been disappointed by the safety measures installed so far.

Val Shawcross, chair of the fire authority, said: "This is not just about making sure that the buildings are safe for children. It is also about ensuring that if fires do break out, there are systems in place to stop the school buildings burning down."

The Department for Education and Skills will issue new safety guidance and building regulations for schools next year.

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