CALLS are being made to make sprinklers compulsory in all new and majorly refurbished schools after figures revealed fires have destroyed the equivalent of 94 classrooms in schools across West Yorkshire over five years.

According to analysis of Home Office data by insurer Zurich Municipal, fire crews have been called to tackle 111 school blazes across the county over the period, of which 20 were large fires causing significant damage.

The findings come following government proposals announced last week to make sprinklers mandatory in Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools, and all schools over 11m in height.

Zurich believes whilst the government’s proposals are a step in the right direction, they still leave the majority of schools exposed to blazes.

Zurich's call will bring the country into line with Wales and Scotland where sprinklers are compulsory.

Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s Head of Education, said: “School fires cause major disruption to children’s education, with repairs often leading to months or even years of upheaval.

"Unless Ministers bring England into line with other parts of the UK, where sprinklers are mandatory, large fires will continue to blight children’s education, already severely disrupted by the pandemic, and put lives at risk.”

Nationally, between April 2015 and April 2020, 1,467 primary schools and 834 secondary schools were hit by blazes. Just two per cent 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.

Gavin Tomlinson, Sprinkler Lead, National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The case for sprinklers in schools is extremely compelling.

"The disruptive effect these fires have on whole communities is stark and the cost of the fire is felt well beyond rebuild costs.

"The impact can be devastating and, in the year where education has been so severely disrupted, school fires put huge additional pressure on the education service and parents,"

Eddie Tuttle, Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research at the Chartered Institute of Building, said: "It is shocking to see the extent of the damage done by school fires, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the vital importance of school attendance to our children’s futures."