FIREFIGHTERS and teaching unions accused the government yesterday of putting “profit before children’s safety” over plans that would weaken fire safety in schools.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) warned that changes to the Building Bulletin 100 guidance on fire safety would have allowed new schools to be built without sprinklers and combustible material to be used in cladding.
They wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening demanding that she issue an urgent statement to clarify whether the “grossly irresponsible” plans have been dropped.
And they asked her why just 35 per cent of new schools were fitted with sprinklers between 2010 and 2016, compared to 70 per cent between 2007 and 2010.
The unions allege that if the “appalling Grenfell Tower tragedy” had not happened, the watered-down safety advice would have become the Department for Education’s official position, with “potential dire consequences for health and safety in schools.”
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack warned that fire safety standards must be improved in all schools as a matter of urgency. “Nothing can be more important that protecting children from harm,” he said.
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney attacked the government for viewing health and safety as a “red tape burden” and said the “terrible consequences of that approach” were now known to everyone.
“The government needs to heed our advice,” he insisted.
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted urged the government to listen to the recommendations of fire safety experts, stressing that the safety of pupils and staff is far more important than “penny-pinching.”
The Department for Education had not commented at time of going to press.