Prep school trust fined £80,000 after pupils hurt in classroom ceiling collapse

An educational trust has been fined £80,000 after a classroom ceiling collapsed onto 15 children and their teacher at a private school in Dulwich.

Children in Year 3, aged between seven and eight, were in a lesson at Rosemead Preparatory School in south London when the ceiling collapsed.

The pupils and their teacher sustained injuries – including fractured limbs, cuts and concussion – when tables and chairs fell from the attic above.

Emergency services attended the incident at the school on Thurlow Park Road in Dulwich on the morning of November 15, 2021, and the class teacher and several pupils were taken to hospital for assessment and treatment.

The Thurlow Educational Trust, which runs the prep school, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The collapsed roof area (HSE)
The collapsed roof area (HSE)

Rosemead Preparatory School and Nursery, which charges up to £5,606 a term, teaches children between the ages of two-and-a-half and 11.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found items, such as desks and chairs, were being stored in an area in the attic which was not designed to be load bearing and led to the ceiling collapsing.

The HSE investigation also found the trust had failed to undertake any structural or load bearing capability assessments of the area being used to store the items, and it had also failed to assess whether the area was appropriate to be used for the storage.

The Thurlow Educational Trust was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £7,116.31 in costs at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on August 29.

HSE inspector Samuel Brown said: “This incident has resulted in injuries to multiple young children due to the failings of the school to ensure that chairs and tables were safely stored above their classroom.

“Schools should be a place where children can come to learn from teachers and one another without having to worry about their safety.

“Fortunately, this incident did not cause any more serious injuries, but the mental and emotional impact of such an event should not be understated.

“Employers need to take action to ensure that building stability and solidity problems are not caused through overloading areas not designed to bear weight. As proven, the failure to do so can have severe consequences.”

Nick Crawford, chair of the Thurlow Educational Trust, said: “The events of November 15 2021 will forever be marked as one of the most challenging in the school’s history. We recognise how deeply distressing it was for those involved. On behalf of the school, we would like to express our sincere regret and apologies that the incident happened.

“The health and safety of our pupils, staff and the wider school community is of paramount concern to us. The school has fully cooperated with the HSE investigation and taken significant steps since the incident to ensure that its health and safety arrangements are as robust as they can be.”