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Schools fire safety

Cladding

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has issued a survey, requesting information on all local authority controlled schools, focusing particularly fire risk assessments and cladding on buildings over 18 metre high or where there is residential accommodation.

The Council has completed and returned the survey. Only one school was found to have Aluminium Composite Cladding (ACM). The building is not over 18 metres high and the ESFA do not require any testing to be carried out on the cladding. 

As a precautionary measure the Council has commissioned its joint venture partner, Qwest Services to undertake testing on the cladding.

Fire Risk Assessments

Schools are extremely safe places in relation to fire risk.

The Council’s Health and Safety team conduct annual reviews of most schools, including the checking of fire risk assessments and fire drills.

The Council has written to all schools within the borough, to ask them to re-visit fire risk assessments and other safety measures to ensure that all actions have been undertaken to minimise risk.

The Council has commissioned Qwest Services, to undertake a programme of fire safety inspections to be carried out on a sample of its maintained schools. Academy and Aided schools are being encouraged to carry out the same checks and they can engage Qwest Services to arrange these inspections if they choose.

Sprinklers

The Council does not have a policy about this but sprinkler systems in schools are generally not installed for life preservation, they are there for building preservation and this means that it is very much a decision that should be made on a building by building basis.

Buildings can be successfully fire engineered to negate the need for sprinklers and in certain areas within schools they are ineffective, for example  buildings with high soffits like sport halls, central “streets” etc.  

There are some new build schools across the borough where a sprinkler system was installed as part of the building contractor’s solution but there is still a need to have a robust fire risk assessment and a well-tested evacuation process even when a sprinkler system is in place.  

The Council will of course act on any national guidance that is issued, and if there is a policy change relating to the installation of sprinklers, ensure that these changes are complied with in full.

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