Fire safety in Lewisham schools in light of the Grenfell Tower fire

The tragic consequences of the Grenfell Tower fire have raised concerns about fire safety for everyone. Therefore we have set out the work we are doing to ensure our schools are safe below:
External cladding review
Although the London Fire Brigade have yet to confirm what caused the fire at Grenfell Tower to spread so quickly, it would appear that the composition of the external cladding and its installation played a significant role. Therefore we have been working with our colleagues in the School Capital Delivery team, our Employers Agents/Architects and the Local Education Partners to undertake an urgent review of our recently built or refurbished schools to;

  • Identify all school buildings where external cladding is installed,
  • Establish what external cladding materials have been used
  • Carry out a technical desktop review of this information with particular regard to fire
    risk and to advise us on the next steps, including whether intrusive tests are required (i.e. do we need to take off a panel(s) and have further tests completed and do we think any materials require to be replaced

In relation to our PFI facility managed schools the respective SPVs have confirmed that they are content with the initial reviews undertaken, with regards to the extent and nature of any cladding used.

Existing wood cladding

Some schools have raised concerns with their existing timber cladding, it is well documented that the surface spread of flame across timber is negligible along as the subsequent treatment to this cladding has not raised its flammability. Therefore schools need to ensure that water based paints with a Class ‘O’ surface spread are used, if the timber is a natural finish then a treatment with a clear finish of fire retardant will suffice.

Fire risk procedures
All schools in Lewisham have automatic fire detection within their fire alarms and carry out regular fire drills. In response to recent events many have confirmed to the authority that the buildings are evacuated and all pupils, staff and visitors have assembled in a place of safety within accepted time frames.
All maintained schools have the responsibility to have fire risk assessments in place which are school-led. These are live documents and are linked to the fire evacuation strategy (covering identification of key escape routes, action on discovering a fire, action on hearing the fire alarm, calling the fire brigade, personal emergency evacuation plans, places of assembly and roll call, fire wardens/marshals, firefighting equipment provided, training required, liaison with emergency services etc). I would strongly recommend that your fire risk assessments are reviewed and any actions within the action plan are addressed without any undue delay. Please ensure your staff are familiar with the fire risk assessments, your school fire strategy and staff training up to date.

Building height

We have a few school buildings of more than three storeys with cladding in Lewisham and we are working with technical advisers to review those buildings that are constructed with external cladding systems as stated above.
Fire safety escape routes
School buildings are provided with fire compartments to limit the spread of fire and to provide safe routes to evacuate the building. Well maintained and functioning fire doors are vital to ensure there are safe escape routes and are inherent within the fire compartmentalisation.
Fire alarms & sprinklers
All schools within this authority have automatic fire detection that will detect a fire and smoke and will sound the fire alarm. Sprinklers are provided in new schools where the risk warrants this, however sprinklers are not lifesaving but will limit property damage, the reason for this is that sprinklers provided in schools are not fast reacting and that they will only operate after the fire alarm has activated, by this time occupants should be out of the school.

Advertisements

Briefing for Forest Hill School

The following is the briefing provided to me by the Mayor of Lewisham’s Office.
The Issue

Following the appointment of a new Head Teacher and a new chair of Governors this academic year a serious overspend was identified. If no action had been taken this would have escalated and given the school even more serious problems in the future. The Council has provided advice and a loan to the school so that changes can be made over a five year period. The school has already carried out a re-organisation of non teaching staff and the current dispute solely involves teachers. The dispute is between the Trade Unions and the management of the school not the council and has involved a number of days of strike action. The NUT is in dispute about changes to teacher’s workload and a single compulsory redundancy. The NASUWT was also in dispute about the workload changes but have accepted the concessions offered to all teaching staff and have now withdrawn their strike action.

Overall, this is a complex issue and it is not possible to provide detailed information about all aspects of it in a short briefing like this. What is provided is a Q&A covering some of the issues that might be raised. 

Tory Government planned cuts to London schools funding

The Tory Government is changing the way schools are financed from 2019. As a result Lewisham schools will lose 3% of their funding and across London 70% of schools will lose money. Labour Councils in London have worked together to oppose this and gained some concessions as the original losses proposed by Government were even larger.

A National Audit Office report showed that the cost pressures facing schools over the next three years amount to an 8% increase arising from pay awards, the Apprenticeship Levy, teachers’ pension Increase and inflation. The Tory Government is telling schools to meet these costs through efficiency savings.

Labour opposes these cuts but they are increasing the pressure on schools to eliminate any deficits now.

Q&A

Why doesn’t Lewisham Council make up the deficit?

Since 1988 the financial control of schools has been the responsibility of Governing Bodies and the amount of funding the schools receive from the Government is largely determined by the number of pupils. When a school gets into difficulties Councils can make loans to help manage the reduction in spending over five years for secondary schools and Lewisham has done this for Forest Hill.

Why isn’t Lewisham paying redundancy costs?

Other schools in Lewisham which have made staff redundant have met their own redundancy costs and this is the case in other London boroughs. The NUT is challenging this nationally and other Councils are facing the same issue. If Councils were forced to pay there is no funding available to meet these costs and cuts would have to be made in other services or money clawed back from other schools.

Why doesn’t the Council allow the school to pay back the deficit over a longer period?

The arrangements for how this is done are made by the Schools Forum which has representatives from schools on it not the Council. They have set 5 years as the maximum. But this will be monitored closely and reviewed annually so further assistance can be given if necessary.

Isn’t the deficit caused by the PFI?

All schools have to spend some of their funding on running their buildings and this cost between 9% and 10% in most cases. The Forest Hill PFI cost 10.2% but in future this will be limited to 10% so that school is in the same position as those without a PFI.

What other changes has Forest Hill made to save money?

19 non teaching staff have been made redundant and there have been changes to the schools management structure.

Why are teachers at Forest Hill being asked to work longer?

The statutory maximum amount of time teachers can spend in the classroom is 90%. Teachers at Forest Hill currently spend 77% of their time with pupils and it is proposed to move this to 88%. Other Lewisham schools and schools in other boroughs are also reviewing their arrangements

The government’s unfair retrospective changes to student loans


The Chancellor George Osborne announced during the Autumn Statement to retrospectively increase your student loan repayments by £306/yr until a students debt is repaid, he also decided future student nurses & other NHS Bursary supported students will no longer get a bursary, instead they will have to take loans instead. On top of this, Maintenance Grants for the poorest students may also be stopped.
Currently, students in England who started university from 2012 will pay 9% of everything earned above £21,000 a year (or £1,750/month pre-tax salary) once they graduate.In 2010, the Government promised that from April 2017 this repayment threshold would be upped each year in line with average earnings. This meant graduates would have been spared having to repay more of their income towards their student loans, and fewer would have had to start repaying them in the first place.

It has now backtracked on the promise given to students, effectively hiking costs retrospectively. A move that, according to the Government, will mean more than two million graduates will end up paying £306 more each year by 2020-21 if they earn over £21,000.

The current government plans to scrap maintenance grants for full-time Higher Education students in England and replace them with more loans instead.

FACT: Maintenance Grants support thousands of students from the lowest income households every year, and the Government’s plan will saddle poorer students with yet more debt.

If the government gets its way and maintenance grants are replaced with loans, the impact will be detrimental to hundreds of thousands of the poorest students studying in England for years to come.

What are maintenance grants and what are the proposed changes?

Maintenance grants are given to students from lower income households to help with their living costs.

The maximum grant is £3,387 per year for students whose household income is less than £25k.

NUS understands that currently, approximately 500,000 students rely on maintenance grants

The government proposals would stop all grants to new students from September 2016, forcing poorer students to take on further debt to fund their studies.

Student Nurses & NHS Bursaries

The Government’s decision to replace nursing students’, midwives, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, podiatrists, radiographers, dietetics, ODP’s and other students on NHS supported bursaries with loans is extremely disappointing.

Those who made this decision simply don’t understand that NHS funded courses are not like other degrees.

They don’t understand that 50% of course time is dedicated to unpaid clinical practice, caring for real people and their families. They haven’t grasped that the academic year is longer, which means there are fewer opportunities to earn money between terms.

From September 2017, any student applying for a nursing degree will have to take out a loan to cover their tuition fees.

UNISON has calculated that a student graduating in 2020 could leave with debts over £50,000, yet be starting in the workplace on a salary under £23,000.

Why #ISPFiltering is the wrong approach

parental control visual

My comment on ‪#‎ISPFiltering‬ – “Pointless” at the age of 10 I set up our internet service provision with our provider. I installed all the software – I set up all the hardware, my mother just looked blankly on.

How much is your degree classification worth?

A new report released by the London School of Economics Centre for Education reports the relatively increase in value of your degree dependent on classification.

In summary:

A 2:1 Degree earns 7 percent more compared to a Lower Second

First Class Degree earns 3 percent more when compared to an Upper Second.

However sadly the report also highlights the continuing pay gaps between men and women

For the full text visit:

http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp1221.pdf