MORE than 70 schools have been built using combustible insulation since the material was banned on high-rise apartment blocks after the Grenfell Tower disaster, sparking outrage from the Grenfell Community and teachers’ unions.
The study, by insulation manufacturer Rockwool, also found about 25 recently built hospitals, care homes and sheltered housing complexes that were likely to have been constructed with combustible insulation. And what is more, these figures are thought to be a gross underestimate.
It comes after the Department for Education last Thursday unveiled new fire safety proposals for school buildings that would continue to allow combustible cladding on structures below 18 metres in height.
A representative of the Grenfell families, Karim Mussilhy, told News Line yesterday: ‘How are we supposed to trust this stupid government when it comes to these dangerous materials that we have been talking about for the past four years, that should never have been up there in the first place, when they can’t even protect our children.’
Grenfell Action Group spokesperson Joe Delaney commented: ‘Clearly they gambled and lost with the Grenfell Tower and 72 people lost their lives. They are gambling with these schools. How many people will lose their lives this time? Once again those who take these decisions are not those who take the consequences of those decisions.
‘ “Some of you may die but that is a risk that we are willing to take,” this is the usual mantra of the state.’
Lancaster West campaigner Jacqui Haynes said: ‘We have known for at least a couple of years that schools and hospitals had the same cladding and the same insulation as the Grenfell Tower and we were asking for it to be removed.
‘It is always money over lives.
‘The inquiry is a big sham and a big show and in the meantime, in the background, it is business as usual.
‘What they want is, once the inquiry is over, for us to forget Grenfell ever happened. The whole system needs to be changed we cannot continue like this.’
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the figures are a ‘major cause for concern … Action rather than discussion is needed now to remove and replace high-risk combustible materials and ensure the safety of young people and education staff.’
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘It is clearly very unwise to choose to use insulation material that makes a school more likely to suffer a fire.
‘Not only does it risk lives, but (there is) also disruption to education – not to mention the cost to the taxpayer in putting things right following a major fire.’
Ronnie King, a fire chief for 20 years and now an adviser to the all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group, said: ‘It’s really a no-brainer that you have to protect the school and its fabric.
‘You would have thought that the lesson of Grenfell was that you protect your assets and lessen the risk of children being injured or, God forbid, killed.’
He criticised the current approach of ‘using materials and construction materials that are almost temporary.
‘You save on the construction so it doesn’t matter if they burn down,’ he said.
‘But these are community assets and there is a loss of children’s education when they burn down.’