Lowestoft school among only three out of nearly 300 in Suffolk to have sprinkler systems
- Credit: Archant
School budgets for fire safety should be ring-fenced to help ensure pupil safety, a Suffolk headteacher has said.
It comes after an investigation by our sister newspaper - the East Anglian Daily Times - after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, found only three state schools out of 293 in Suffolk have sprinkler systems, according to Suffolk County Council (SCC) data obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
They are Clements Primary Academy in Haverhill, Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds and Pakefield High School near Lowestoft.
It is not mandatory for schools to have sprinklers, but they must be installed if deemed necessary by fire safety experts or required under planning laws. All schools must carry out fire safety risk assessments to demonstrate they are fire safety compliant.
Clements Primary Academy moved into its £5.1m building in 2011. Sprinklers are fitted in every classroom. School safety since the 1980s has improved 'remarkably', acting head Sam Gallacher said.
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'The next stage may well be considering sprinklers in all new schools, rather than saying 'we don't need it',' he added. 'But it all depends on how much capital the government gives to schools.
'If they are serious, they should encourage a review of school buildings alongside a ring-fenced budget for fire improvement.'
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It has been suggested that the lack of sprinklers in the Grenfell Tower could be a possible reason why the fire spread so quickly.
At least 80 people are believed to have died in the blaze on June 14.
A spokesman from Pakefield High School, which opened in 2011 but saw the final phase of the building completed last September, said: 'Having sprinklers provides reassurance and it gives people longer to get out of the building in the event of a fire.'
The SCC data also reveals that six out of the nine primary and secondary schools built since 2010 do not have sprinkler systems.
A SCC spokesman said: 'Our approach is to include sprinkler systems in all new school buildings, where capital works are directly funded by the council.'
The Department for Education said: 'There will be no softening of fire safety laws for schools or our determination to protect children's safety. With the rest of Government, we will take forward any findings from the Grenfell Tower fire public inquiry.'