An educational trust has been fined £80,000 following an incident where 15 schoolchildren and their teacher were injured when the classroom ceiling collapsed at Rosemead Preparatory School in Dulwich, London. The incident occurred on November 15, 2021, when tables and chairs being stored in the attic above fell on 15 Year 3 pupils, aged between seven and eight, and their teacher. The teacher and 12 pupils were taken to hospital for treatment of fractures, cuts, and concussion.
The Thurlow Educational Trust in Dulwich pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £80,000, along with a payment of £7,116.31 in costs. The incident occurred due to the storage of items such as desks and chairs in an unsuitable area in the school’s attic, which was not designed to bear weight and led to the collapse of the ceiling. The trust had failed to conduct structural or load-bearing capability assessments of the storage area and had not determined its appropriateness for storing the furniture.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed these failings. HSE inspector Samuel Brown emphasized the significant mental and emotional impact of the incident on those injured and urged employers to take action to prevent overloading areas not designed for weight-bearing.
Chair of the Thurlow Educational Trust, Nick Crawford, expressed regret and offered apologies for the incident. He assured that significant steps have been taken since the incident to enhance health and safety arrangements within the school.
This incident highlights the urgent need for the government to address deteriorating school buildings across the country. A coalition of seven unions previously warned Education Secretary Gillian Keegan about the risks posed by collapsing school buildings. The unions stressed that immediate repairs are necessary to prevent potential loss of life. A Department for Education report acknowledged the risk of collapse in some school buildings, prompting the unions’ call for action.
Ensuring the safety of students, staff, and the wider school community should be a top priority for all educational institutions. Proper assessments, maintenance, and adherence to health and safety standards are essential to prevent such incidents and protect the well-being of all those within educational settings.