New schools in Derbyshire will be fitted with sprinklers to protect against the risk of fire, it has been pledged.
Every newly-built school will now have sprinklers installed, as well as all primary and secondary schools undergoing significant renovation, refurbishment or extension.
The move comes after a joint commitment from both Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council and criticism from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service about the number of existing schools which do not have sprinklers. DerbyshireLive is currently fighting a Freedom of Information battle to name the schools in Derbyshire that do not currently have sprinklers installed.
The new pledge was announced after two Derbyshire schools, St Mary’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in Darley Abbey and Ravensdale Infant School in Mickleover, were destroyed by fires within just a few days in October.
Councillor Barry Lewis, Leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: “Fire devastates lives. School fires, even if there is no loss of life, have huge impacts on education and communities.
“It is vital that we use every defence measure possible and Derbyshire County Council has no hesitation in playing our part in this commitment to protect our children and our schools.”
Councillor Chris Poulter, Leader of Derby City Council, said: “Our schools are at the heart of our communities, and we are proud to be supporting this Statement of Intent.
“Losing a school has an enormous community impact, as we’ve seen recently with not one but two fires at Derby schools no thanks to some abhorrent individuals who chose to set fires in them.
“Fires that cause such devastation should never happen when there are fire safety measures that can prevent them.”
Sprinklers are the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages, according to Derbyshire Fire and Rescue.
Yet there is currently no legal requirement for sprinklers to be fitted in any school across the country.
The county’s Chief Fire Officer Gavin Tomlinson has long been an active campaigner for sprinklers in schools, and is also the national lead for sprinklers for the National Fire Chiefs Council.
He expressed his sadness at the destruction of the two buildings, but believed this announcement will help to protect children and their education going forward.
He said: “Sadly I cannot change the outcome of these particular school fires, but through my work locally in Derbyshire and as the lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, I am able to campaign and help protect other schools from the impact of fire in the future.
“Sprinklers are an effective fire safety measure that can extinguish a fire, or contain it until the arrival of fire crews.
“With this in mind, I am delighted that both the City and County Council have joined me in signing a Statement of Intent to protect all new build schools and those undergoing refurbishment.”