Arson attacks on schools endanger lives, disrupt and distress staff, pupils and parents, and takes up emergency services resources. School fires cost over £80million in insured damages each year.
Around 90,000 pupils are estimated to have their education disrupted in some way by school arson each year. Destroyed coursework and teaching aids, loss of classrooms or other facilities, transfer to a different class or school temporarily, or destruction of property all take their toll.
The loss of coursework, especially in the weeks preceding exams, can cause considerable mental stress in children, potentially resulting in reduced exam performance and stress-related disorders such as depression (high rates of which already exist among teenagers). Younger children can lose their sense of safety in school buildings following a fire.
Schools can protect themselves against the threat of arson with a few simple techniques which do not necessarily mean installing expensive alarm systems or hours of detailed risk assessment.
The Arson Reduction Officers in partnership with Bedfordshire Police Crime Reduction Officers are working on a programme that will give every school in the county a free School Crime and Arson Reduction Evaluation (SCARE) that will provide the school with a report that identifies actions they could take to reduce the opportunities for crime and arson to occur on the school site. Over 100 evaluations have been completed in the last two years. If any school would like a free SCARE please email the Arson Reduction Officers.