A CAMPAIGN is calling for sprinklers to be mandatory in schools after data shows firefighters were called to dozens of incidents in school buildings across North Yorkshire.

Over the last five years, the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service have been called to 60 blazes at schools across the county, with 13 logged as being started deliberately

The data, attained via a Freedom of Information request, has been released by Zurich Municipal, the leading insurer of schools in the UK, as it launches a campaign calling for a law change on sprinklers in schools.

Of the 60 incidents in North Yorkshire, none of the schools had sprinkler systems fitted which are proven to significantly reduce the damage caused by fire.

They are already compulsory in all new or major refurbished school buildings in Scotland and Wales, but this is not the case in England.

In fact, they are fitted in fewer than one in six new schools.

Zurich is now urging MPs to review the law and has started a parliamentary petition which the firm is encouraging the public to sign to get the issue debated in parliament.

Additional analysis by Zurich goes on to highlight that schools in England are nearly twice as likely to suffer a blaze as other types of commercial building. Zurich analysed the fire risks posed by 26,866 primary and secondary schools in England and found the average school posed a fire risk 1.7 times greater than non-residential buildings.

Despite being far riskier than average when it comes to fires, many schools also lack the equipment needed to prevent small fires becoming major disasters.

Of more than 1,000 school inspections carried out by Zurich, 66 per cent were rated as having ‘poor’ fixed fire protection systems, such as sprinklers.

A further quarter were judged ‘poor’ for fire detection measures, such as smoke detectors and fire alarms.

Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s head of education, said: “An alarming number of school buildings pose a high fire risk - yet many are poorly protected against a potential blaze. Unless Ministers bring England into line with other parts of the UK, large fires will continue to blight schools.

"This is harming children’s education and putting lives at risk.

“As well as protecting pupils, sprinklers drastically reduce the extent of damage when there is a blaze, often confining the fire to a single room.

"It costs far more to repair fire-ravaged schools than it does to install sprinklers.

"Even so, cash strapped schools cannot be expected to pick up the bill.

"The government’s Covid-19 investment is a critical opportunity to ensure schools are more resilient to fire.

"Unless Minsters change the law on sprinklers, much of this funding will be wasted on repairing the fire damage that sprinklers could have easily prevented.”

Nick Coombe, of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The case for sprinklers is compelling. Of almost 1,000 fires over five years in buildings where sprinklers were fitted, our research found they controlled or extinguished blazes in 99 per cent of cases."