UK’s Deptt. For Education (DfE) launches review of fire safety in schools

The Department for Education has issued a call for evidence on how guidance around fire safety design in schools should be updated. The DfE wants to hear the views of architects, fire safety experts and building firms in order to revise the guidance. The call for evidence comes as the government is embarking on a wider review of building regulation in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. Currently, all new buildings must be designed and constructed in line with building regulations set out by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in statutory guidance.

In addition to this, the DfE produces non-statutory guidance – known as Building Bulletin 100 (BB100) – on the design and construction of schools, based on the regulations.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in West London, in which 72 people died, the Hackitt review of building regulations recommended that the statutory guidance should be reviewed, which the MHCLG is currently doing. The DfE said that in light of this, it is the right time to review and update BB100 to make sure it is in line with any proposed statutory guidance.

Schools minister Lord Agnew said: “Schools are fundamentally safe places and it is imperative that parents and teachers have confidence that they are. It is vitally important that buildings continue to be built to the highest standards of fire safety. We want to work with experts from across the fire sector and construction industry to ensure our guidance takes into account the latest views and positions on fire safety in schools, which is why we are launching this call for evidence.”

The call for evidence will be open today and will close on 31 May 2019, after which the DfE will use the responses to produce draft guidance that will go out for consultation later in the year. Following the Grenfell fire, some aspects of the government’s approach to fire safety in schools have come under attack from unions. In February 2018, unions accused the government of “paying lip service” to its own fire safety guidance by classing some schools as being at too “low risk” to be given fire sprinklers