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Arson in Schools

Volume 450: debated on Monday 23 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many convictions there have been for arson in schools in each of the last 20 years, broken down by local authority area; (95116)

(2) how many schools have had fires started by arsonists in each of the last 20 years, broken down by local authority area;

(3) what estimate he has made of the cost of repairing deliberate fire damage at schools in each of the last 20 years, broken down by local authority area;

(4) what estimate he has made of the cost of introducing a sprinkler system in every school in England.

We do not have figures for school fires broken down by local authority areas. The data we have is provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which collects figures from the Fire and Rescue Service.

The earliest figures we have on school fires from DCLG are for 2000, and the most recent for 2004. These cover England and Wales. The costs are rounded to the nearest million and are derived from the (then) ODPM publication “Economic Cost of Fire, estimates for 2004”. They cover property damage and the costs of the fire and rescue services attending the fires.

Number of fires

Total costs (£ million)

2000

1,275

45

2001

1,529

67

2002

1,332

67

2003

1,313

61

2004

1,291

52

The available data do not differentiate between primary and secondary schools, or between the public and independent sectors.

For the years covered, just over 60 per cent. of the school fires were considered to be the result of deliberate fire setting. Neither this Department nor the DCLG have figures for the number of people convicted for committing arson in schools.

We do not have reliable figures for the cost of installing sprinklers in schools, and so we commissioned consultants to carry out a study to establish them. Their survey covers a minimum of 20 primary and secondary schools, and is analysing both installation costs and maintenance costs. It commenced in July and should be completed later this month. We will include data from the study in the final draft of our new guide on fire safety, Building Bulletin 100 (BB 100), “Designing and Managing Against the Risk of Fire in Schools”, which we expect to publish early next year.