Posted by: John Brace | 10 January 2016

Does fire safety construction flaw at PFI school affect Wirral schools?

Does fire safety construction flaw at PFI school affect Wirral schools?


Cllr Lesley Rennie speaking at a public meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 29th January 2015

Cllr Lesley Rennie speaking at a public meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 29th January 2015

11/1/16 08:19 Edited to change University Academy Birkenhead to Birkenhead Park School as it changed its name last year.

A report to be considered by councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority‘s Performance and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday afternoon warns, during a fire at a PFI school on Merseyside, that smoke spread from a ground floor kitchen to a protected staircase.

Further investigation found the same problem at eleven additional PFI sites.

Wirral has a number of schools constructed using PFI that are managed by Wirral Schools Services Limited. It is not known if any of the schools on the Wirral are affected by this. Here is the information from the report.

Case Study 2: Fire Separation in Major Construction projects

24. A site visit to a local school on 9th January 2015 following a fire on 7th January 2015 (incident no 32304) identified serious fire separation concerns due to smoke spread from the ground floor kitchen to the 1st floor protected staircase.

25. The school was built as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) initiative. The investigation led to 11 additional PFI sites where the same issues were detected. As the issues potentially had national implications Protection Officers utilised the CFOA [Chief Fire Officer Association] Community of Practice to share the risk information. It was subsequently established that the same issue had been found in other major new-build / refurbishment projects across England with estimated repair bills totalling in excess of £100m.

26. Officers escalated the issue to the CFOA Fire Engineering Technical Standards Group due to the national potential in order that the risk information can be effectively shared with other Fire and Rescue Services and that national guidance is produced to ensure that these issues are dealt with consistently and effectively.”


Will either of the two Wirral councillors (Cllr Lesley Rennie and Cllr Jean Stapleton) on MFRA’s Performance and Scrutiny Committee ask if any of the Wirral PFI Schools (Leasowe Primary, Bebington High, Birkenhead Park School (previously University Academy Birkenhead and before that Park High), South Wirral High, Weatherhead High, Hilbre High, Prenton High, Wallasey High and Wirral Grammar Girls) or the two Wirral PFI City Learning Centres (Wallasey City Learning Centre and Hilbre City Learning Centre) are affected by this?

If you click on any of these buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people. Thanks:


  1. Hi John, in April 2015 University Academy of Birkenhead was renamed “The Birkenhead Park School” (according to its website) or plain “Birkenhead Park School” (according to the Department for Education)

    • Thanks for pointing out a further change of name for this school (I still think of it as many do as Park High). I’ve amended the article.

  2. I take it the tax payer will now have to foot the bill to make these schools safe, and the companies who built them swan away on their private islands.

    • I’m not sure whether it affects Wirral Schools or not.

      However on the Wirral I think the PFI schools were originally through Jarvis.

      However Jarvis terminated its involvement in those PFI contracts in 2006 and sold them on.

      So if there are flaws in construction, I’m not sure who would foot the bill.

      Certainly the current company managing it might state they weren’t the ones constructing the schools, but whether liability passes to them I’m unsure!

      I do have a copy of the Wirral PFI School’s contract (it’s hundreds of pages long) and I’ve seen the Liverpool PFI Schools contract.

      I presume the original construction was subcontracted to building firms based on architectural plans. Who’s responsible for correcting any defects in the original construction or any flaws in the plans now I’m not sure.