HC Deb 15 February 1973 vol 850 cc414-5W
Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) how many schools have been built in England and Wales by the CLASP method;

(2) how many of the schools built by the CLASP method have been damaged by fire since this method was introduced;

(3) how many CLASP schools or single-storey, one, two, three, four and five-storey design, respectively, have suffered structural collapse as a result of fire damage each year since this method of construction was introduced;

(4) what advice was sought from the Fire Research Station about the fire risk involved before the CLASP design was approved by her Department; and what advice was given.

Mrs. Thatcher

According to information supplied by local education authorities in England and Wales they started 906 major CLASP projects between 1957–58 and 1971–72. Statistics are not available about the height of these buildings, but the great majority of the schools do not exceed two storeys.

The following table gives information about fires in schools supplied by the Fire Research Station for the years 19651971; comparable information is not available for earlier years. The total number of maintained schools in England and Wales is over 29,000.

Number of fires in day schools causing damage estimated at over £10,000
1965 18
1966 31
1967 27
1968 39
1969 53
1970 39
1971 62

There have been no fatalities due to fire in maintained schools since systematic records began in maintained schools.

The available statistics from the Fire Research Station do not distinguish between schools in the CLASP system and other similar forms of construction.

CLASP, like other industrialised building systems, comprises a range of dimensionally compatible components which may be assembled in different ways. Its use does not imply complete standardisation either of design or of materials. I do not approve building systems as such; new major projects are approved individually. It is a condition of approval that they should comply with the requirements set out in the Department's Building Bulletin No. 7 which was prepared in consultation with the Fire Research Station, and was brought up to date in 1971. It contains advice on structure, alarm systems, fire-fighting facilities and precautions by occupants. There is special emphasis on means of escape. When the requisite technical information is available from the French authorities about the recent fire in Paris, the Department will consider whether any further action is required.

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