Headlines: May 5th, 2005

A leading insurance company has launched a practical educational aid designed to raise awareness of the huge cost of fires in schools. The Arson Combated Together kit is being provided free to fire services throughout the UK by Zurich Municipal, which has announced that the cost of schools fires increased by 13 per cent in 2004.The company, the country’s leading education insurer and risk management provider, developed the kit to raise awareness among both pupils and teachers and has decided to make it generally available following a 50 per cent increase in requests for it in the last month.

Latest figures from Zurich show that related costs incurred as a result of school fires were 83 million pounds last year, which means they have risen by more than 137 per cent in the last decade. Statistics show that three schools are the target of arson attacks each day largely carried out by pupils and former pupils.

The toolkit is designed to combat arson by changing behaviours. The company believes it will provide fire services with a unique and comprehensive resource to teach children about the dangers and risk of arson attacks. It has been supported by the Arson Prevention Bureau, the Chief Fire Officers Association, the ODPM-led Arson Control Forum and the National Community Fire Safety Centre.

The kit contains a range of resources, each of which can be used singly or combined with one another. They include fire service guidance notes, a teachers’ resource pack, a play script with drama procedure, a story cassette and a CD Rom, with leaflet and press release templates. It has been designed in consultation with fire services, teachers and psychologists.

Larry Stokes, Underwriting Manager at Zurich Municipal and Chair of the Arson Prevention Bureau’s Schools Working Group said school arson was a complex and serious crime with widespread effects and the toolkit would assist fire services and schools in encouraging pupils to think about the implications of arson. “This programme also fits in with many curriculum topics including peer pressure, relationships, consequences and responsibility, how to be ‘risk aware’ and be good citizens,” he added.Research conducted after the kit had been piloted in schools showed students had heightened awareness of the risks of arson, which led to a significant decrease in property losses from schools in the pilot area compared to a control study.