Hackney Council is refusing to release fire safety ratings for Hackney schools after inspections carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
When compiling details about fire safety in schools for the Department for Education, after June’s fatal blaze in a west London block of flats, the council generated a Red-Amber-Green (RAG) rating for each school in Hackney.
This was recorded in the council’s September report on its response to the Grenfell fire.
However, Hackney Council is refusing to release these ratings to the public.
A spokesperson said: “We have a record of the RAG ratings but this is not intended for public use as it includes technical data and is used by officers.”
The council also said it has “no plans to publish” a report by the Local Education Partnership (LEP) about cladding and insulation in Hackney schools, saying the report is “still being reviewed”.
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “The safety of pupils is a key priority and if there were any concerns about fire safety, action would be taken immediately.
“We are satisfied that all community schools have appropriate fire safety plans in place and that no buildings have cladding that could pose a risk.”
Sprinkers and cladding
When asked if the council has plans to retrofit sprinklers into Hackney schools, the spokesperson said: “The council does not have immediate plans to retrofit sprinklers to existing school buildings.”
London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton has called for sprinklers being retrofitted into high-rise housing blocks, echoing the 2011 coroner’s report into the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark. Hackney MP Diane Abbott also supports the move.
Cladding is believed to have been responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire spreading so quickly. Hackney’s Grenfell report says the LEP found “small amounts of ACL [aluminum cladding material] panelling” in some schools.
When asked, the council declined to say which schools, claiming that the schools are safe and would be notified once the LEP report is reviewed.
A spokesperson said: “The presence of ACM in schools is extremely limited.
“Schools operate in a very different way compared residential towers, given they are generally relatively low level buildings, with multiple exit points, and significant numbers of adults supervising during their operational hours.
“If the council had considered that there was a risk from ACM it would already have taken action with school’s full knowledge and agreement.
They added: “The report is being reviewed and once this is completed, schools will be contacted.
“We are confident that the overall fire strategy for each school is appropriate and provides a safe environment for all building users.”
Fire Risk Assessments
When asked by the Citizen to provide the Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) for each school – a separate check on school fire safety – a council spokesperson said: “The completion of fire risk assessments is a school responsibility.
“The individual schools would need, therefore, to agree to release that information.”
The council claims it told the Department for Education that “all schools have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment”.
The council’s Grenfell report said the council wrote to schools reminding them to carry out regular FRAs, and suggesting that “those which had not undertaken one in the 2016-17 academic year should consider doing so as soon as possible”.
As reported by the Citizen, Hackney Council is refusing to release FRAs for housing blocks and council buildings carried out before the Grenfell Tower fire.
The council’s publication of new FRAs on its website has been plagued by technical errors, embarrassing revelations, incorrect dates, and a format slammed by disability campaigners for being hard to use.
Update: Hackney Council has apologised for incorrectly telling the Citizen that the RAG ratings were given to the Department for Education. The story has been amended accordingly. You can read the council’s apology here.