Firefighters’ union FBU and teaching unions NUT and ATL are seeking urgent reassurances from education secretary Justine Greening about fire safety in schools. Both the NUT and FBU have been pressing the government since last year to reverse its proposed downgrading of fire safety requirements for school buildings which, they argue, “show a total disregard for the health and safety of children and staff.”

They point to a government announcement last summer that the expectation that sprinklers should be fitted in new schools in England would be removed from its Building Bulletin guidance.  The same document proposes scaling back the ‘compartmentalisation’ requirements intended to reduce the ability of fires to spread through large buildings.

It would also remove sections advising against the use of flammable cladding. The unions say the changes are part of the government’s cuts and deregulation agenda. Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said: “The government has behaved shamefully over this issue. It is high time the health and safety of children and staff is prioritised.

“We call upon the government to make an immediate announcement that it will no longer proceed with downgrading fire safety in schools.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is staggering we still have to have this debate with the government in the current circumstances. It highlights the endless problems we have faced when raising fire safety issues over several years.”

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “It is shocking that the government continues to ignore the recommendations on fire safety in schools. The government – now more than ever – needs to make assurances that they will prioritise the health and safety of pupils and staff in school buildings and implement the changes required to keep them safe.”