This is a simple but important question, which many schools do not consider. While such a monumental catastrophe may seem unimaginable, the likelihood of your school being affected by a fire is shockingly higher than you might think.
According to statistics published by the Chief Fire Officers Association, during 2013-14 there were 924 fires in further education, higher education and pre-schools, resulting in 19 casualties. A significant rise in arson-related fires in the last few years means that these statistics are sadly only likely to increase.
If you are an independent academy or MAT you will have to cope with the aftermath of a fire yourself, which is why section 2.3.8 of The Academy Financial Handbook states that you must have contingency and business continuity plans. Dealing with the loss of your whole site is probably the biggest continuity plan you should have in place.
7 Key Considerations
- What is the longest period you can go for without teaching your children? This will vary for various year groups, e.g. year 7 could wait longer than year 11. Also the time of year could have an impact, e.g. it may be imperative to get something in place immediately if it is exam time.
- Could you have a reciprocal deal with other schools that may have some space?
- Could you set up temporary classrooms in colleges or other organisations?
- Is there a transportation consideration, and do you need to set up an arrangement in advance with a coach company?
- Do you need to provide disabled access to your temporary classrooms?
- Do you have an area where temporary bulidings could be erected? If so, have you set up an arrangement with a provider?
- If you can’t have the whole school in one place, how will you split it? You could send different year groups to different sites, but then how do you split the staff? You may need to consider having subject staff teaching year groups they don’t normally teach.
Best Practice for Continuity Plan Design
All of the above considerations need to be taken into account when building your plan. The function of the plan is to guide a person through all the tasks that need to be carried out in order to solve the problem. Key staff need to be made aware of the location and contents of the plan. It should contain the contact details of everyone you have made agreements with, e.g. alternative accommodation, transport providers etc. Ideally the plan should be housed as an electronic document that can be accessed from anywhere. A copy should also be held externally to the school server – because if your whole site has burnt down you have lost your paper copies and the main server as well.
Addressing this serious issue is the first step in getting your school in order, in terms of business continuity planning. Once you have plans in place for dealing with such a large-scale loss of site you can adapt them into plans for smaller incidents, such as losing one school building or block. Your plans should be tested and checked regularly to make sure they are still current and fit for purpose.
About Continuity West
At Continuity West we believe school leaders should be prepared to respond to and recover from any major incident.
We specialise in helping schools to protect pupils and staff, reduce reputational risk and guard against post-incident litigation.
We deliver this by providing comprehensive emergency plans, training, software and practical advice to fit any school budget (and exceeding DofE audit compliance).
If you have any concerns about your school’s readiness to respond to an emergency incident, contact us today for a free consultation.