Schools over four-storeys high to have cladding tests

Schools over four-storeys high to have cladding tests

The government is reviewing all schools over four-storeys high to find out what type of cladding is on the buildings after the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Schools minister Nick Gibb, in a written Parliamentary Question today, confirmed the department is analysing all school buildings to identify those over four storeys high.

Gibb said this will ensure that all school buildings over 18 metres high are included in the analysis, which will establish what, if any, external cladding has been used on them.

He said: “The Government is taking the potential impact from the Grenfell Tower seriously and as such, we are taking a strategic approach to the assessment of the wider public sector estate.”

More than 70 people died after a huge fire erupted at Grenfell Tower – a 24-storey housing block in west London – on June 12.

Schools Week revealed on Friday the government had instructed councils and academy trusts to carry out fire safety checks on school buildings to identify any that may need further investigation in light of the blaze.

It came after a Schools Week investigation last week found the proportion of new schools being built with fire-preventing sprinklers has halved to just 35 per cent since 2010, with concerns over government plans to weaken fire safety rules.

It was then revealed on Sunday the Department for Education was reportedly dropping the proposals – that would watered down the language around safety requirements – including over installation of sprinklers.

Today’s announcement by Gibb followed a letter issued by three unions calling for the use of flammable cladding on school buildings to be “urgently examined”.

The unions, including the National Union of Teachers and Association of Teachers and Lecturers, also called on the government to officially confirm they had abandoned the proposed fire safety rule changes.

They also want new legislation that requires sprinklers to be fitted to all new schools, and review all schools built since 2010 without sprinklers.

Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said: “For far too long the government has viewed health and safety as a ‘red tape’ burden… We all now know the terrible consequences of that approach. Fire safety in schools must now become a priority and for this to happen the Government needs to heed our advice.”

Gibb, in the parliamentary question answer this morning, stated: “Responsibility for ensuring compliance with fire and safety regulations sits with the employer of staff in a school or other educational establishment.

“Depending on the type of establishment, the employer may be the local authority, trust, diocese or proprietor.”