Information

Ventilation in schools: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002


Information requested

“Regarding the policy of school doors been undercut to improve airflow:

  • Would there still be a requirement for these door to maintain the intumescent strip, consequently have laws with regards to this been changed?
  • Did the Government take advice from Fire Safety Officer prior to making any decision regards cutting off the bottoms of doors?
  • Does each school who undercuts doors to improve airflow be required to undertake a new health & safety audit?”

Response

I have responded to each of your questions in turn:

Please note that the Scottish Government have not asked local authorities to “undercut” doors in schools.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills’ letter of 28th January 2022 to the Education, Children and Young People Committee setting out this example scenario was not guidance, and has not been issued to local authorities. It was a response to a request from the Committee to provide more detail on how costings had been arrived at. The letter stated:

“In order to calculate the £5m schools/ELC ventilation fund, we have assumed an example set of remedial measures which could be taken for each problematic space although this will vary depending on local decisions.”

and

“It is very important to note that these costs will of course vary significantly in practice, as the precise remedial measures used in each problematic space should be informed by local circumstances and expert assessment by local authority teams.” 

Would there still be a requirement for these door to maintain the intumescent strip, consequently have laws with regards to this been changed?:

The Scottish Government’s Practical Fire Safety Guidance For Existing Non-Residential Premises applies to schools and can be found here. The guidance does not refer to the practice of doors being “undercut”. However, it does contain information in relation to intumescent strips, including the following text:

  • The Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures section of the guidance states that local authorities should complete checks that fire doors are in good working order: inspect doors for warping or distortion, fire-resisting glazed panels are in good condition and secure in their frame, and that intumescent strips and smoke seals are in good condition.
  • Our guidance describes a ‘fire door’ as a fire-resisting door which is rated by performance to fire under test conditions. Fire doors are used to prevent fire spread and for the protection of means of escape. A self-closing device is a normal feature of a fire door, though there are some exceptions, such as doors to small cupboards which are kept locked shut. The level of protection provided by a fire door is determined by the time taken for a fire to breach the integrity of the door assembly, together with its resistance to the passage of smoke, hot gases and flame. The gap between the door leaf and the frame is normally fitted with intumescent strips, in either the door or the frame (but not at the bottom of the door). The strips expand in response to heat from a fire, to seal the gap between the door leaf and the frame.
  • Smoke seals fitted to the door leaf gap prevent the spread of smoke at ambient temperatures, before an intumescent strip expands.

Did the Government take advice from Fire Safety Officer prior to making any decision regards cutting off the bottoms of doors?:

Scottish Government officials have spoken with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) regarding this matter. SFRS have close working relationships with all local authorities, particularly when it comes to fire safety in educational establishments. SFRS have confirmed that they understand the Scottish Government’s approach in seeking to improve ventilation in schools and, in line with business as usual fire safety processes and procedures, they are happy to provide advice and support to local authorities regarding any changes to structures which may have an impact upon Fire Risk Assessments.

Does each school who undercuts doors to improve airflow be required to undertake a new health & safety audit?:

Local authorities are fully aware that they should undertake any remedial work in line with Scottish Government guidance on ventilation and expert input. Our guidance already makes clear that when implementing any Covid-safety measures, local authorities must continue to adhere to legal obligations with regard to health and safety, including fire safety. It is of course for local authorities as duty holders to ensure appropriate consultation with all relevant authorities when undertaking works in school buildings.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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