THE National Union of Teachers teamed up with the Fire Brigades Union last night to demand that sprinkler systems be fitted in every school.
The unions insisted that it should be a legal requirement for all schools to have such systems to help prevent the Â£100 million a year of damage caused by fires.
As many as 20 schools a week are damaged or destroyed by arson, with nine out of 10 of these fires being started by pupils, the NUT observed.
The number of school fires rose by 55 per cent in 2003, with related costs increasing by more than 170 per cent over 10 years.
As part of the campaign, the NUT is writing to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and other relevant ministers as well as chief education officers across the country.
Mr Prescott is currently reviewing the regulations covering school buildings.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: "It seems madness that a system which costs no more than 1.8 per cent of total building costs, yet could bring such benefits, is not already a requirement.
"The Deputy Prime Minister has an ideal opportunity to rectify this," he said.
FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist added: "Firefighters see first hand that school fires devastate communities and disrupt education.
"This is about investing in protecting the fabric of our communities and the safety of our children.
"Sprinkler systems slow down the spread of the fire and will stop an enormous amount of damage," Mr Gilchrist said.
"It will also be safer for the thousands of firefighters who tackle school fires every year."
The campaign, launched today as part of European Health and Safety Week, has the backing of other organisations including the Association of Chief Fire Officers and the Local Government Association.
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