Almost half of new school buildings in England do not have fire safety sprinkler systems.
The government issued guidance two years ago saying sprinklers should be fitted in almost all new schools.
But 43% of schools to have been re-built or refurbished under the multi-billion pound Building Schools for the Future programme lack sprinklers.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said some schools may be fitted with alternative methods.
There is no official total for the number of schools with sprinklers, but Zurich Insurance says fewer than 500 out of the 32,000 schools in the UK have them.
Every week 20 schools are destroyed or damaged by fire.
In one fire, at Tideway Community School in Newhaven, East Sussex in 2005, 40 classrooms were damaged. The school was rebuilt, at a cost of £10.8m, and the new buildings contained sprinklers.
Although the number of arson attacks fell slightly last year, the cost of the damage rose to £65m.
The government has said it expects sprinklers to be fitted in almost all new school buildings.
But figures obtained by the BBC from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) show many local authorities are deciding not to fit them.
The Chief Fire Officers Association says local authorities which choose not to fit them are putting the safety of pupils and staff at risk.
It is calling for the government to make sprinklers mandatory in all new school buildings.
A spokesman for the DCSF said 72 out of 127 schools to have benefited from the Building Schools for the Future investment programme are fitted with sprinkler systems.