Educational Establishments including Schools and Colleges

Fire Safety in new and altered Educational Establishments including Schools and Colleges is subject to the Building Regulations and the guidance can be found on Fire Safety in New, Extended or Altered Buildings.

When premises are occupied fire precautions are controlled by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and this order lays down legal requirements.

Fire Safety Guide for England and Wales

The most appropriate guide for Educational Establishments including Schools and Colleges is likely to be Guide on Educational premises and can be downloaded at the Department of Communities and Local Government web site. This guide is for all employers, head teachers, governors, vice-chancellors, occupiers and owners of educational premises. It is important to understand that more than one piece of fire safety legislation and/or fire safety guidance can be applied to educational premises. For instance the The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 apply and there could be others. In addition to the Guide on Educational Premises other fire safety guidance documents may apply, for example the Guide on Offices and Shops, Guide on Small and Medium Places of Assembly or the Guide on Large Places of Assembly and in the case of a boarding school or halls of residence then Guide on Sleeping Accommodation.

The guides tell you what you have to do to comply with fire safety law, helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place. This guide is intended for premises where the main use of the building or part of the building is an educational premises. These include schools, colleges, universities, Sunday schools, academies, crèches, adult education centres, after-school clubs, outdoor education centres and music schools. It may also be suitable for the individual premises used for educational purposes within other, more complex premises used for different purposes, although consultation with the other managers will be necessary as part of an integrated risk assessment for the complex.

The guides have been written to provide guidance for the Responsible Person, to help them to carry out a fire risk assessment in less complex premises. If you read the guide and decide that you are unable to apply the guidance, then you should seek expert advice from a competent person. More complex premises will probably need to be assessed by a person who has comprehensive training or experience in fire risk assessment.

Fire Risks

The life risk in day schools is very low and high in boarding schools because of the sleeping hours. However, the risk of fire and fire spread is high in both establishments for different reasons. Because day schools are left unoccupied for a great deal of the time they are quite often subjected to arson attacks which often involves the whole of the premises. Boarding schools are considered to be a high risk because they are very much like the domestic property on a much bigger scale but this risk is mitigated because of the high standard of supervision.

Property Fire Risk Assessment

There is a legal responsibility to carry out a fire risk assessment which is designed to protect life which is the Responsible Person’s responsibility. You should also considered protecting property. This could be achieved by trying to prevent a fire occurring in the first place or reducing the effects if one should occur. An additional risk assessment is a way of achieving this by conducting an inspection on a what-if basis and try to identified any possible fire risks. You may find the local fire brigade does these type of inspections or you may employ a fire consultant. The cheaper way is to do it yourself by electing a member of staff to be responsible for fire and security matters and having him/her to research the topic and conduct a fire risk survey. He/she should also keep records on any fires and vandalism, no matter how small. This would build up a risk profile and could predict when a major crime might occur. Research has found that there is a pattern prior to any major arson attack or vandalism. The police crime prevention departments will have more details on this aspect.

Fire Representative

Fire prevention is usually given a low priority in the administration of schools but it is no good buying many books if the library is likely to be razed to the ground in the immediate future. Insurance is not always the answer, as it rarely covers the full cost of replacement and there are the resulting increased premiums. Consequently, an idea worth considering is to have a person seconded to the board of governors with fire safety experience to give advice. The local fire brigade might make enquiries to explore if any serving or retired officers have any connections to the school and would be willing to serve as an adviser to the board.


During training sessions as well as detailing and practicing fire procedures some time should be devoted to emphasising simple fire precautions in an attempt to stop fires happening. Not only is fire training in most premises required under the law, it also makes sense, half an hour spent may prevent the fire in the first place and can save lives. For further information go to Staff fire safety training.

How to Combat Arson in Schools

A great deal of property belonging to education authorities is lost every year due to arson (mostly schools). If you would like guidance on this problem go to How to combat Arson in schools.


March 17, 2011[Last updated: March 30, 2019]

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