Wakefield Grammar School Foundation 'failed to take general fire precautions'

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation failed to take general fire precautions at two of their schools a court was told.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 5:38 pm
Wakefield Grammar School Foundation failed to take general fire precautions at two of their schools, Leeds Magistrates' Court heard.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority (WYFRA) brought a prosecution against Wakefield Grammar School Foundation and its former fire risk assessor Doctor James Gibson.

At a hearing at Leeds Magistrates’ Court today guilty pleas were entered to the following charges: Dr Gibson, 65, who lives in Leeds, pleaded guilty to failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – premises known as Wakefield Girls’ High School, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and Mulberry House Nursery School - between February 16, 2017 and March 11, 2017.

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation pleaded guilty to failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – Wakefield Girls’ High School and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School – between February 16 and March 11 2017.

The foundation also pleaded guilty to failing to take general fire precautions – Wakefield Girls’ High School and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School – between 16th February and 11th March 2017.

The case was committed for sentence at Leeds Crown Court on January 10th, 2020.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that during a visit to Wakefield Girls’ High School in February 2017, Fire Protection Inspectors noted a number of concerns, including coat hooks lining escape routes and a partially obstructed final exit door.

In a follow up inspection, a number of other concerns were noted, including the removal of doors to cloakroom areas.

They also noted that devices fitted to several fire doors meant they would have failed to close in the event of a fire, the prosecution said.

During an inspection of Mulberry House Nursery School, which teaches children as young as three, on March 1, 2017, inspectors also found that children’s coats and bags were being stored in an area that served a means of escape, the court heard.

The court heard that while visiting Queen Elizabeth Grammar School on March 20, 2017, inspectors again found coats and bags in areas open to the means of escape.

The fire authority noted that this was contrary to advice that had been issued in previous weeks.

Exit doors in the school’s main hall had also been blocked by chairs and other equipment during the school day, the prosecution said.

District judge Marie Mellon said: “I of course accept that Mr Gibson is a man of impeccable character.

“But a number of children were exposed to risk and some very young, very vulnerable children were exposed to risk.

“The two defendants are inextricably linked.”

She committed both defendants for sentencing at Leeds Crown Court on Friday, January 10, 2020.