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Byline: By BEN TURNER Education Reporter

PUPILS are being put at risk by plans to build Liverpool's pounds 400m new schools without fire sprinkler systems, union officials claimed today.

The Fire Brigades Union said the safety features should have been made compulsory as part of the large Building Schools for the Future programme.

Liverpool council is behind a multi-million pound makeover to transform 32 high schools to be rebuilt or refurbished.

But the council has not budgeted for sprinklers as part of the scheme.

A spokesman said its new buildings would be assessed on a "school by school basis" to determine whether to install the heat activated devices which reduce the extent of damage by dousing the source of a fire.

There are on average 40 school fires a week in the UK, at least one involving a Merseyside school. Figures show pounds 74m of damage was caused from school fires last year.

Merseyside Fire Service is backing a national call for sprinklers at all new schools.

Les Skarratts, secretary for the Merseyside FBU, said: "This is a missed opportunity and one that potentially puts the lives of pupils and teachers at risk. Sprinklers protect the school and the firefighters called out and the cost of installing them is far outweighed by the benefits to the whole community."

NASUWT national executive member John Rimmer said: "It is not mandatory but that could change, and the cost of installing them at a later date would be astronomical."

Liverpool's cabinet member for education Cllr Paul Clein said: "You have to ask whether the cost is justified as you could count on one hand the number of fires in schools when someone is actually in the building.

"However we will also take a look at new government guidelines on this issue."
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2007
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