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by Louise Wilson
04 February 2022
Firefighters union calls for talks after government’s ‘door chopping’ plans for schools

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Firefighters union calls for talks after government’s ‘door chopping’ plans for schools

The firefighters union has urged the Scottish Government to convene talks on school safety concerns.

It follows concerns that Scottish Government plans to cut the bottom off classroom doors to increase airflow in response to Covid may undermine fire safety.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said this could become a “potential fire risk”.

When the issue was raised at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon defended the plans, insisting it was “basic common sense”.

The suggestion was included in a letter from the education secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, to Holyrood’s education committee.

In an example of how the new £5m fund to improve ventilation in schools, Somerville said remedial measures could include installation of an air filtration unit or ventilation units, as well as doors being “undercut to increase airflow”.

But Ian Sim, Scotland secretary of the FBU, said: “The doors affected could potentially include fire doors.

“We need clarity and certainty over these plans and the Scottish government must now convene immediate multi-agency talks to establish the safest way forward.”

The matter was raised by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross on Thursday, who asked whether the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had been consulted.

A spokesperson for the SFRS said it was “aware” of the financial support being given to schools for Covid ventilation but warned against acting without contacting fire safety teams.

They added: “The SFRS would strongly advise duty holders to make contact with our fire safety enforcement teams before undertaking any actions which would have an impact on the fire safety arrangements within their premises.”

Meghan Gallacher, the Conservative spokesperson for children and young people, has urged the Scottish government to write to schools regarding the SFRS advice.

She said: “The First Minister has to stop digging in and recognise her proposal is illogical and even potentially dangerous, according to fire safety experts… Our schools need more air filters to protect against Covid. They don’t need classroom doors chopped up.”

Addressing the parliament on Thursday, Sturgeon said: “If doors or windows are not enabling that natural flow of air in the way that is wanted, it strikes me as basic common sense to take measures to rectify that.

“Therefore, we have given additional money to local authorities to allow them to take whatever steps are needed—air filtration systems, mechanical ventilation or basic rectification of the structure of classrooms—to improve the natural flow of air.”

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