There has been much debate about whether schools are COVID safe in terms of the children themselves, teachers, and the potential spread of virus in the wider community

…with much debate throughout the pandemic as to whether schools should have closed. But as all students finally return to school, they will face other risks.

Zurich Municipal, one of the main insurers of schools in the UK have recently published a study following their inspection of 1000 schools in the UK as well as statistics from English fire authorities. In the last 5 years there have been 2,300 school blazes in England, gutting 47 primary and secondary schools with another 230 seriously damaged.

Malfunctioning equipment, electrical faults, arson, and kitchen fires were cited as the main causes but with no figures on casualties it would appear that, fortunately most fires occur outside of school hours or evacuation measures work.

That is despite the Zurich inspections finding what they call ‘risky buildings’ with two-thirds of schools rated as having poor fire detection and prevention measures. Their analysis found that the average school is almost double the fire risk of other non-residential buildings and that 7 million pupils at primary and secondary schools are taught in buildings that are classed as high fire risks.

Only 2% of schools suffering fires in 2019 had sprinklers, although given the age of many of our school buildings that does not seem too surprising. However, as only 15% of schools built since 2011 are sprinklered, Zurich are calling for sprinklers to be installed in schools as standard or at least for new builds or those undergoing major refurbishment as is the case in Wales and Scotland but not England.

Post Grenfell, fire safety is a priority, however sprinklers are costly and although Boris has announced a big (circa £1 billion) school budget for rebuilding and repair of schools fire safety will be competing with other basics such as rain proof roofs.

Away from fires, in view of the current focus on children’s safety you would have thought that the authorities would have a handle on accidents to children occurring at school, but you would be wrong.

Accidents obviously occur (the BBC reported that compensation payouts to children injured at school doubled from £1.65m in 2014 to £3.45m in 2016) but the Government have not been collecting data on child accidents or injuries since 2002.

Statistics are recorded for children killed or injured on the road which show they are more at risk as pedestrians or cyclists than as car passengers and surely begs the question as to the sense of making kids wear a face mask in class but not a helmet when cycling to school?

Fortunately, accidents are rare but do happen, and there is very good Personal Accident cover available for school children in West Sussex schools (and likely similar schemes beyond). It provides cover of up to £100,000 for permanent disability for a nominal premium (I believe the annual premium is still less than £15 per year). This is nothing to do with Nsure, just something I came across and bought as a parent when my kids were of that age.