SCHOOL fires have destroyed the equivalent of 1,100 classrooms in the last five years, new figures reveal.
Fire crews have been called to tackle 2,300 school blazes in England, which completely gutted 47 primary and secondary school buildings, and seriously damaged 230 others.
More than 74,000 square metres, an area equivalent to 10 football pitches, of teaching facilities have been damaged by fire in this time, according to analysis of Home Office data by leading insurer Zurich Municipal.
Zurich Municipal now estimates 390,000 teaching hours could be lost in the next year as a result of large fires alone, causing disruption for 28,000 children, who may already be struggling to catch up following school closures during the pandemic.
The findings – based on Home Office data from all 44 fire authorities in England –has led to renewed calls for mandatory sprinklers to be fitted in new and refurbished schools, bringing the country into line with Wales and Scotland where they are already compulsory.
Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s Head of Education, said: “Young people have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. Ministers must ensure no more classroom time is lost for a generation that has already fallen behind. These figures highlight the devastating impact of fires on the school estate. Unless the government changes the law on sprinklers, accidental and malicious fires will continue to blight schools and children’s futures.”
Between April 2015 and April 2020, 1,467 primary schools and 834 secondary schools were hit by blazes. Just 2% of these schools were fitted with sprinklers. Zurich estimates the average repair bill for large fires alone is £2.9m, with some fires costing up to £20m.
Zurich warns that, without sprinklers, fire could damage five times as many schools as will be improved under the government’s new rebuilding programme.