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Schools: Fire Extinguishers

Volume 458: debated on Monday 26 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what his Department’s policy is on the installation of sprinkler systems in existing school buildings; (127196)

(2) what his Department’s policy is on the installation of sprinkler systems in school buildings being (a) renovated and (b) newly built.

On 1 March I was able to announce in the House our new policy on sprinklers. It is now our expectation that all new schools will have fire sprinklers installed. However, we do not intend to make this a compulsory measure as sufficient regulations are already in place covering life safety and we do not need to legislate further for property protection. There may be cases where local authorities or other promoters of schools consider that sprinklers are not needed. They will need to be able to demonstrate that such schools are low risk and that sprinklers would not represent good value for money. To do this they should use our new risk assessment and cost benefit analysis tools that I launched on 26 February at a parliamentary seminar.

Where a school is undergoing extensive renovation, local authorities and other promoters should use the same tools to determine levels of risk and value for money, and therefore whether sprinklers are needed or should be considered. We are not suggesting that existing school buildings that are not undergoing refurbishment should have sprinklers installed. However, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, implemented in October 2006, requires all schools to carry our annual fire risk assessments. Where risks are identified, measures must be taken to reduce or remove them.