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Incidents of, and articles about,
asbestos in schools - 2010 and earlier
The reports below are only a small sample of the many incidents that occur in schools on a daily basis as most incidents go unreported or are unnoticed.

For more detail: This paper analyses around 100 asbestos incidents in schools, contamination of the schools and inhalation of fibres. Many incidents have occurred because of a failure in asbestos management and a lack of asbestos awareness and training.

 

2011 and later incidents and articles on asbestos in schools. 2011 are at this link

 

BBC News Mid Wales Welshpool High School closed to 950 pupils after flood......... Welshpool's head teacher Jim Toal said: ........ "The problem is compounded by brown asbestos which was in the kitchen ceiling, and I understand this is the worst asbestos to deal with. ........ "I have to wait for the Health and Safety Executive to give me the all clear when it's safe to reopen the kitchen."
The Guardian
7 Dec 2010
Asbestos is thought to have been used in around 75% of the country's schools. Successive governments have rejected calls for a national survey and risk assessment of schools' asbestos management plans.... Last year, when in opposition, the current schools minister, Nick Gibb, requested a national audit to determine the extent, type and condition of asbestos in school buildings; and to establish standards of asbestos management......... Last month, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (Juac) launched its own survey of school management plans following a report from the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association (Atac) in February. Atac conducted an assessment of volunteer schools and found "widespread failings". Some schools "had no knowledge of asbestos management" and were "not complying with their legal duty", it said........... Juac says the numbers of people who have suffered ill health or died as a result of exposure is "unacceptably high". "The latency [time lag] before asbestos-related illness develops can be many years," it says. "It's possible the number of people affected in schools is much higher than currently thought. Pupils in particular are likely to go undiagnosed for many years, and any effects are unlikely to be recognised as connected to exposure in school."

Comment: A sensible, detailed article which explains the present concerns about the HSE/DfE approach to asbestos in schools well.

HSE
3 Dec
Two workers exposed to asbestos at Aston University
Mirror
31 Dec
WE pay their wages, and their job is to protect us from hazards at work. So what has the Health and Safety Executive got to hide about the dangers of asbestos in the classroom? Bosses refuse to publish a report on the killer dust in schools, even though it was completed four months ago and is keenly awaited by teaching unions and campaigners......... Hang on a minute. Which comes first – the well-being of teachers and schoolkids, or the financial impact of making schools safe? The HSE report is believed to recommend removal of asbestos, but officials hide behind gobbledegook about “consulting with stakeholders involved in the information ­gathering stage” to cover up.

Telegraph and Argus
26 Nov
An apology after Press Commission intervention. Experts warn of fatal exposure .......... In our article of November 5 we stated: “Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining around the lungs and stomach, is not associated with white asbestos products”. It is our understanding that the British Lung Foundation states that “all types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma if you breathe in or swallow the fibres”, while the Health and Safety Executive states that “white asbestos is implicated as a cause of both lung cancer and mesothelioma.” We apologise for any confusion our original statement caused.
Mirror 29 Nov

Classroom killer dust 'cover-up' ....The Health and Safety Executive has refused to release a report on the killer dust, even though it was completed four months ago. .... Deputy head Michael Horswell was seconded by the HSE last year to study the management of health and safety in schools.
Videos
26 November
Click on the links to see the videos:
ABC News
Queensland
15 Nov
Lessons can be learned from other country's experiences as UK has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world with Australia being second worst

1. Transparent policy on asbestos introduced.. The Queensland Government says it is regrettable that parents were not told about asbestos that was detected at a school. Education Queensland (EQ) did not tell parents and teachers when fibres were found at Redcliffe State High School in 2008 because of advice that it posed no risk. Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg says that was the wrong call. "It just shows that they still don't get it about asbestos," he said.

2. Three unions are threatening industrial action amid fears staff at a north Queensland school were exposed to asbestos...The threat comes after Queensland Premier Anna Bligh admitted that an asbestos scare at another school north of Brisbane was handled badly.... a computer wireless network was installed into the ceiling of the room about 18 months ago. .... "Someone has drilled holes in the ceiling and left them open and it's believed asbestos fibres have been falling down on people"

About Mesotheloma. net
12 Nov
New statistics from health officials in Great Britain show an alarming increase in cases of mesothelioma among women... mesothelioma had shown a 57 percent increase in incidence among women—the highest rate of increase of any cancer...... There is some speculation that the increase is linked to asbestos-riddled schools that were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Until it was banned in the UK, asbestos was widely used in building materials such as ceiling and floor tiles and insulation in construction of schools
Surrey
12 Nov
Old colleagues sought after man's asbestos death....... “At the time they had the contract to build the new secondary school in Cobham. He recalled how lorry-loads of asbestos came in, like bags of flour, ready to be mixed up and applied to the extensive pipework in that school.
WalesOnline
Western Mail 10 Nov
Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay, chairman of the National Assembly cross party group on asbestos, said more must be done to ensure asbestos that remains is removed to prevent workers suffering further exposure. “We need to deal with the problem going into the future and that means pushing for a proper assessment of where asbestos is in public buildings, including schools, and then implementing a removal process,” he said.
Mirror
8 Nov
An increase in the number of women dying of asbestos-related cancer is worrying health experts. There were 384 mesothelioma deaths in 2008 but 347 the year before. Lung surgeon John Edwards of Sheffield said: "We need further research to determine the risk of low-level exposure." Some think it is because of asbestos in schools built in the 1960s and 70s.
The Guardian Series
7 Nov
Waltham Forest's Unison, the public sector union, is requesting information from people who work in schools as part of a survey of asbestos management. They are concerned that the number of people who have suffered ill health or have died as a result of asbestos exposure is unacceptably high. A report in the summer showed that asbestos was not properly monitored in schools and steps to prevent risk from deadly bacteria were not taken.
Early Day Motion House of Commons
11 Oct
EDM 794 Court of Appeal Ruling on mesothelioma liability. That this House is concerned that the implications of the decision by the Court of Appeal on 8 October 2010 will be that many victims of asbestos-related disease will die without the certainty that their families will be entitled to compensation; agrees it is the exposure to asbestos that can lead to the development of fatal diseases such as mesothelioma and that the trigger must therefore be the point of exposure and not, as challenged by the insurance industry, the point the disease develops which can be many decades later; further agrees with the High Court ruling in 2008 that the insurers who should pay compensation are those who provided cover to the employer at the time of the asbestos exposure; notes this is the latest of many attacks by the insurance industry on compensation for working people who were negligently exposed to deadly asbestos; and calls on the Association of British Insurers to ceaseits unrelenting attack on the victims of asbestos.
Press Complaints Commission
28 Oct
Complaint against Daily Mail. Michael Lees complained that the newspaper had published a number of inaccuracies in an article which claimed that the dangers posed by asbestos in schools have been "grossly exaggerated". The complainant considered that the article had misrepresented the risks of white asbestos products, the substance of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling against the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the findings of an HSE report on the risks to health from asbestos exposure, and the particular risks posed by the presence of the more harmful types of asbestos materials in many schools. In general, the complainant considered that the article had been dangerously misleading. The complainant also strongly objected to a reference to the death of his late wife.

The complaint was resolved by a private apology from the Editor and a correction to each of the factual points raised in the complaint. The correction was published in the paper and on line. It was published by the PCC under the heading 'Clauses Noted 1'. Clause 1 covers this part of the Editors Code:

Accuracy The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.....

Teachers TV
28 Oct
Judges at The Supreme Court are deliberating whether two families can keep compensation awarded by the courts for their loved ones' deaths. It is believed one of the victims was exposed to the deadly dust as a pupil at a school with asbestos in the building...... Ruth Davies, Solicitor for Dianne Willmore's husband Barre says: "These cases are another attack on asbestos disease victims. The defendants are trying to change the law that has been working perfectly well for many years so that fewer people who are dying can get properly compensated."

The link has a video interview

Liverpool Daily Post
26 Oct
Landmark Merseyside asbestos cases due in Supreme Court.

Comment: A short summary of the cases also covered by Teachers TV above, and relevant to the House of Commons Early Day Motion listed above

Tribune Magazine
28 Oct
Even more seriously, many of the schools that were to be refurbished under BSF were built before 1970 and contain large quantities of the most dangerous asbestos. In fact, schools were still being built with asbestos materials into the mid-1980s and beyond, even though the dangers of this were well known. As the buildings fall into disrepair, deadly asbestos fibres may be being released into classrooms, corridors and halls. If the state of school buildings doesn’t impact on standards now ...... they may be setting our children up for tragically early and painful deaths in the decades to come.

The TUC says that the number of teachers who have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma rose by more than 300 per cent in the past 20 years

Bedford Today
23 Oct
A Bedford Borough Council spokeswoman, said: “The council takes the issue of asbestos very seriously

Comment: Bedford Borough council were served with an Improvement Notice for the failure of Beauchamp Middle school to review their asbestos management plan to ensure that their asbestos was properly maintained. The failure led to two breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act and a further breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations. By law schools have to manage their asbestos, and part of that is reviewing their plan and also periodically inspecting the condition of all asbestos materials to ensure that they have not been damaged. Failure to undertake such a review can lead to damage occurring and yet passing undetected so that staff and pupils can potentially be exposed to asbestos over a prolonged period of time.

See also : "Deadly" asbestos inside the structure of a Bedford middle school was not being properly managed according to health and safety bosses.

HSE notices - 3 breaches

Huddersfield Examiner
22 Oct
Asbestos in every school in Kirklees built before 2000 ...... “Materials containing asbestos are safe if they are in good condition and are not damaged or disturbed

Comment This statement appears to be misleading as asbestos is often not in good condition and normal school activity can damage and disturb it. At this link is a detailed analysis of the flawed comments by the Council

Swindon Advertiser
21 Oct
ASBESTOS is lurking in about 70 per cent of Swindon’s schools, including classrooms, halls, toilets and changing rooms. ..

Click here to view the full table of schools containing asbestos

Joint Union Asbestos Committee If you are a school safety representative, please read the briefing below and then click on http://surveymonkey.com/s/GNPPRTP to complete the questionnaire.  The deadline for responses is 15 November 2010. Who are we? The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is a coordinating group of trade unions including ASCL, ATL, NASUWT, NAHT, NUT, Voice, UNISON, Unite, UCATT and GMB. The Group has the objective of ensuring the risks from asbestos are effectively managed and seeks ultimately to remove asbestos from all schools.
Thames Laboratories The issue of asbestos in schools is a highly emotive subject with concerns ranging from evidence to suggest that asbestos in schools is not being effectively managed to the concern that raising the issues of asbestos in schools will cause panic amongst parents. ..Research by ATAC has indicated that at a school level the compliance with the requirements of Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulation is overall poor and ineffective. The Health and Safety Executives assessment of education authorities has resulting in a number being subject to visits and of these action has been taken against several authorities.
Education Executive
18 October
The steering group Asbestos in Schools will continue to function under the new government, it has been confirmed. Campaigners for Asbestos in Schools held a meeting last week with Lord Hill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools where he agreed to the continuation of the steering group. Asbestos in Schools was set up in the last Parliament to look at all aspects of risk, management and training for asbestos in schools. It had been on hold since the change in government and now plans to meet before Christmas.
The Caretaker
18 Oct
14,000 schools are thought to contain asbestos......... Over time, and without proper management, the safety of asbestos declines, and dangerous levels have been recorded during daily events, such as when children slam classroom doors....... There are about 21,600 primary schools, 4,000 secondary schools, 1,500 special schools and 2,500 independent schools in Great Britain. 14,210 schools were built between 1945 and 1975 when the use of asbestos was at its height, many of these schools contain large amounts of asbestos in their structure. Other schools were refurbished during the same period with extensive use of asbestos materials...... The asbestos is deteriorating through age, vandalism, fair wear and tear, leaking roofs, decades of underfunding, lack of maintenance and botched maintenance, lack of adequate asbestos management.
Express
17 Oct
Schools Minister Nick Gibb has ordered only a "cost benefit analysis" of children's deaths in later life
Unison
14 Oct
After a meeting with Under Secretary of State for Schools. "..........It is vital that the Government recognises that asbestos in schools is a health hazard and that they should take urgent action to have it removed, and make sure it is properly managed.....With more schools being taken out of local authority control, UNISON is deeply concerned that standards of asbestos management - which are already seriously failing - will decline even further. Schools will not get the help they need to deal with this dangerous problem, and this will sadly lead only to a more children and staff losing their lives....The safety of students and staff should be paramount."
BBC Radio 4
You and Yours
Oct 7
On You and Yours a government representative made a number of very misleading and some wrong statements about asbestos in schools. A detailed, referenced paper analyses the flaws and the political reason for the innacuracies in it.
Thames Laboratories
Oct
Concerns are rising over the latest Report issued by the HSE regarding the subject of asbestos in Schools. John Richards, Managing Director of Thames Laboratories is one of many who have openly questioned the validity of the Report. He said: “Although HSE show the report as being overwhelmingly positive, those who campaign on this subject have been highly critical of the format, the review and the reliance placed on the honesty of the Authority and its understanding of what is a system built school... One authority in its response commented:

“As per my previous e-mail, I’m concerned about the quality of this questionnaire and the potential for misinterpretation when the contents are analysed. It does not show the full picture of asbestos management and only concentrates on a very small area. The questions are confusing and potentially misleading (far to open to interpretation).”

John Richards continues: “Given that this comment is from one of the Authorities, it is important that we understand the basic requirement of this document, to ensure all in the garden is rosy. The questionnaire has not examined the detail required for asbestos management and many questions such as annual re-inspections have been carefully avoided”...“Within the HSE’s detailed list we are aware of a number of authorities who have not undertaken re-inspections and who have had more than one asbestos issue over the last few years, but yet these are judged to be ok.  The message created by this report is in complete contrast to that produced from the recent ATAC report at school level earlier in the year, where the report was conducted at school level and identified a number of key failing in most schools”.

Evening Chronicle
Oct 5
Remove this danger from our schools; experts have converged on Tyneside to warn of a ticking timebomb in the region's schools and public buildings. "We are not scaremongering. Asbestos is deadly but can be dealt with safely as part of a carefully structured management programme. .."What we do need to see though, are proper surveys and records of which buildings contain asbestos and their condition, as part of a proper programme for managing the problem....

Unite
October 9

Asbestos in Schools survey Unite - together with other unions representing teaching and support staff in schools - is seeking the support of school safety representatives in completing an on-line questionnaire about asbestos management in schools. The purpose of the survey is to gain a better understanding about how well, or badly, asbestos is being managed.  A briefing in PDF format is available which gives further details about how the survey fits in with the unions’ overall campaign against asbestos in schools.The deadline for responding is 15 November 2010.
Public Sevice - Oct 8

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Centre (USA) -Oct 8

Ten councils have been told that they are putting children's lives at risk by not making sure that asbestos in schools is managed safely.

Health and Safety Executive finds 42 school councils in England do not comply with Control of Asbestos Regulations

BBC London
Oct 8
A report on asbestos in schools in London with interviews with Carole Hagedorn, a teacher who is dying of mesothelioma. Jonathan Francis - the Chairman of the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association and Amanda Brown (NUT). Video clip starts at 05.40 27.45
You and Yours
BBC Radio 4
Oct 7
You and Yours covered the issue of asbestos in schools. The HSE (David Ashton) and Michael Lees were interviewed.

Unfortunately David Ashton made some incorrect statements Including “teachers are not at an increased risk from asbestos related disease, and from that we can infer that exposure levels were not high in the past....” . The actual situation is that teachers should not be dying at the rate they are. This paper explains the situation.

Teachers deaths are, of course, the tip of an iceberg and this paper covers the increased vulnerability of children to asbestos.

The problem of asbestos in System Built Schools is at these links. Part 1 Part 2

Harrow Observer
Oct 1
Dad angry that asbestos in school not dealt with... Vaughan Primary School in Vaughan Road, West Harrow, and Norbury First and Middle School in Welldon Crescent, Harrow, were told in June that they are failing to meet standards concerning asbestos, set by the Health and Safety Executive. see more reports below (20 -23 Sept)
Guardian
Asbestos saga proves our feeble press watchdog has no bark and no bite ....It took a seven-month battle to get the Daily Mail to correct Christopher Booker's dangerous claims about asbestos.
Thurrock Gazette
Sept 27
A BOILER room in a Thurrock school had such dangerous levels of asbestos that it was branded off limits by the Health and Safety Executive. Thurrock Council is now one of ten authorities in the country to be told to improve its asbestos management or face legal action, it is also the only authority in the country to be served a prohibition notice, after the boiler room was discovered in April.
TUC
24 Sept
NUT critical of schools asbestos assurances: The government and its safety watchdog have 'misplaced' confidence in the ability of schools to safety manage asbestos, teaching union NUT has said
Daily Mail
24 Sept
After intervention by the Press Complaints Commission the Daily Mail published a statement in correction of an article that:
  • incorrectly quoted the HSE
  • failed to acknowledge the risks from dangerous brown asbestos widely used in schools
  • failed to acknowledge HSE had found risks from white asbestos fibres.
Politics
22 Sept
Voice (Teachers and education professionals Union): "Thousands of staff and pupils potentially at risk as local authorities and schools fail to show that they manage asbestos safely."
Harrow Times
23 Sept
Vaughan First and Middle School, in West Harrow, and Norbury First and Middle School, in the town centre, were told they did not meet standards by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on June 30.
BBC News
22 Sept
Doncaster Council has been told to improve the way it manages the risk from asbestos in schools... Those inspections (by HSE) .. resulted in 10 authorities, including Doncaster, receiving enforcement notices to improve asbestos management standards, covering issues such as training and the need to provide information for people carrying out work at the schools...... "There is no room for complacency; managing asbestos in buildings needs effective and ongoing attention” Rosalind Roberts Health and Safety Executive
NUT
21 Sept
The HSE and DfE have today published the findings of a survey of local authority management of asbestos in system built schools........ Publication of these findings is long overdue .... the original deadline was April 2009... the NUT is concerned that standards of asbestos management will fall further ... We fear also .... the abolition of a recently established DfE steering group which was set up with the aim of improving asbestos management in schools.
Your Thurrock
15 Sep
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has served Thurrock Council with an Improvement Notice for failing to train its Head-teachers in asbestos awareness.
TES
10 Sep
...... this Tuesday, September 14, will be the sixth anniversary of my mother's death. A dedicated teacher, she contacted mesothelioma following a careless clear-up of dust after removal of the school heating system almost 20 years before diagnosis. She was 58 when she died and lived just three and a half years beyond diagnosis.......... I count myself lucky to work in mostly new buildings and to have an understanding and determined head who not only insisted on the removal of asbestos from our boiler room, but also made a point of telling everyone the dates this would happen in the summer break so that we might keep clear of school. Not everyone is as lucky.

(This is in response to the TES report "I contracted a terminal disease through teaching" from Carole Hagedorn who is 59 - see 3 Sep below)

Wiltshire Times
10 Sep


St Laurence School
Headmaster's letter
Aug

Asbestos closes classrooms at Bradford school ........ “The five rooms have been sealed and specialist contractors are now engaged in the removal of ceilings and lights alongside a deep and thorough clean." ..... “Fallen dust is routinely tested and it was just above the threshold for safe levels. ...... “Finally, decontamination procedures in schools today are not uncommon.”

Comment: (see this link for a referenced comment on the dangerous misconceptions in these two reports)

  • This is the second incident reported of this type this week. This could and should have been avoided.
  • The statement "Fallen dust is routinely tested and it was just above the threshold for safe levels" is deeply flawed. If correctly reported it shows a disturbing lack of asbestos awareness for there is no "safe level".
  • The Headmaster saying "decontamination procedures in schools today are not uncommon" is true. However decontamination only takes place after asbestos fibres have been released. As every school, by law, should have a system to prevent that happening something has gone seriously wrong. The fact that contamination is "not uncommon" in schools demonstrates that many schools do not have effective or safe systems of asbestos management.
Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group Michael Lees was recognised for his dedicated and persistent campaigning work on asbestos in schools when he received the prestigous Hazards Campaign Alan Award... Michael, who has camapaigned relentlessly on asbestos in schools since his wife Gina, a teacher, died from mesothelioma was applauded for his work which has galvanised the support of teachers unions and asbestos support groups, MPs and the Hazards Campaign organisations.
TUC Risks bulletin 470
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the possible presence of asbestos and legionella bacteria in four schools in the London borough of Waltham Forest found that the council had no plans to deal with the risk of exposure to pupils. (see 13 Aug reports below)
Wales News
6 Sep
A popular swimming teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer is leading a fundraising event to help in the fight against the disease... . In March 1998, Shirley was diagnosed with breast cancer and after a cautionary check-up, and she was officially given the all-clear and signed off from Velindre cancer services last November. But the following month she developed a bad cough, and in March this year discovered she has mesothelioma cancer, a form of lung cancer caused from asbestos exposure.

Shirley .... said: “Once I had an x-ray they could see all the fluid in my lungs – they drained seven pints of fluid from them. “They thought it was breast cancer back, then they thought it was lung cancer. By March it was mesothelioma. “There isn’t much research into that cancer – I have done sponsored swims over the years for breast cancer but never for lung cancer.”

Evening Post
An improvement notice has been served on South Gloucestershire Council to ensure that it carries out work to prevent the release of asbestos in 15 of its schools . The notices were issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which said the one served on South Gloucestershire Council was to ensure it gave priority to planned remedial work to seal gaps in school buildings through which asbestos fibres could potentially be released.

Comment: The Council's response appears both misleading and defensive. See this link for the Council's statements and factual corrections to it. (The article containing the Council's responses was published in July 2010 - but we have only just seen the article and the Council's apparently inaccurate response to the press and public.)

TES 3 Sep

 

I contracted a terminal disease through teaching. I asked how long I could expect to live and the doctor just shrugged. So I looked it up on the internet - the average survival rate is six to 24 months. ..........I don't feel bitter towards the schools. If I was in charge of the building, I wouldn't know about asbestos either.

There is now a greater awareness about its dangers, but there is still some work to do. I would like schools to be obliged to follow stricter guidelines. It should be obligatory to have a thorough asbestos survey every year. I don't want teachers to panic: every school should already have an asbestos register and management plan. There should be someone responsible for its management - the local authority, the head or the caretaker - but their role must be clear. The Asbestos Testing and Consultancy association (ATaC) can help with quick and easy tests to check for airborne fibres. ......

Carole Hagedorn, 59, taught in London and south-east England

The Press
3 Sep
Term start delayed at Poppleton Ousebank School as asbestos is found. ...Asbestos found in the roof of a York primary school has delayed the start of term and will see some pupils spending weeks in temporary classrooms.... A spokesman for City of York Council said: “A project to re-roof the Poppleton Ousebank School has been delayed while asbestos insulation boards are removed from the ceilings.

Comment: A primary school in York has some 380 children aged between 3-11. In September 2009 maintenance work on the roof disturbed asbestos so that asbestos dust entered and contaminated a number of the classrooms. Air tests proved the presence of asbestos dust and a clean up was carried out. The school was then reoccupied. The asbestos insulating board  (AIB) ceiling tiles were left in place. AIB ceiling tiles invariably contain amosite (brown asbestos) which is 100 times more dangerous than white asbestos.

In September 2010 work was carried out to replace the roof of the school. Measures were taken to protect the AIB ceiling tiles but air test found asbestos fibres and the decision was taken to remove all the AIB boards from the site before the work continues. The school is therefore shut while the work is carried out.

Incidents such as these cause disruption to school life and anxiety amongst staff, parents and pupils. These incidents raise serious questions about the management of asbestos in the school.

This again proves that if asbestos materials are present there is always the danger that fibres will be released, the school contaminated and people put at risk. The decision to remove the AIB ceiling tiles should have been taken a year ago following the first incident, and not left until an almost identical incident has forced the decision on the school authorities

BBC News
2 Sep

30 Aug

Tulliallan Primary school in Kincardine will be closed until further notice following a fire on Monday. Fife Fire and Rescue Service said the blaze broke out at the building, which contains asbestos, at about 0220 BST (2 Sept report)

Tulliallan Primary school in Kincardine will be closed until further notice following a fire in the early hours of Monday morning. ..... A decontamination unit is involved in the clear-up because the building contains asbestos (30 Aug report)

Managed Support Services
31 Aug
Many schools may be in breach of health and safety legislation according to new research from Managed Support Services - a building management support company.

Three further reports are due to be published shortly. The first is Lord Young’s review of health and safety. The Asbestos in Schools Group submitted a response that was critical of the manner in which asbestos is managed in schools. The evidence is that the occupants of schools are put at risk from frequent asbestos incidents, with many being caused by inadequate systems of asbestos management. A report published by the Asbestos consultants association, ATAC underlined these failings in a report published in February. See the report

The second is a long overdue report. It is the findings of HSE inspections of 43 local authorities that required further investigation following their responses to the DCSF/HSE questionnaire into compliance with the asbestos guidance for system built schools. The responses to the questionnaire were completed nine months ago and the resultant inspections should have been completed five months ago, but HSE have refused requests to release information. However it is known that some enforcement action has been taken as a result of these inspections The HSE have taken enforcement action because of failures by local authorities to ensure schools are safe from the dangers of asbestos.  and council failed to fully respond to a request for information by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The third report due to be published is by a senior headmaster who had been seconded to the HSE for two terms to look into the management of health and safety issues in schools. It is understood that in certain aspects his investigation also found flaws in health and safety management in schools.  

Guardian
24 August
But the achievement was all the more impressive..... given the conditions the pupils had studied in. Barclay is one of more than 700 schools to have had its plans for redevelopment under the Building Schools for the Future scheme cancelled.Built for 500 students in 1949, it now accommodates more than 1,100 in dated facilities, with a crumbling infrastructure. Its flat roofs leak prolifically ... frequently ruining the contents of classrooms and offices. When it rains, the corridors are lined with buckets to prevent puddles forming. The sewerage and water pipes, which burst almost every term, run in asbestos-lined channels under the stone floor, which can't be cut into without special permission because the revolutionary design of the building when it opened gives it Grade II listed status

Comment: The school was built in 1949 and it is known that it contains asbestos, however without referring to the asbestos survey it is not known where or what extent. A standard asbestos surveys only identifies the accessible asbestos and not the hidden materials, therefore it must be presumed that the building contains unidentified, hidden asbestos unless there is definitive proof that it does not. Consequently precautions have to be taken on the assumption that the more dangerous types of asbestos materials are present.. The school is in a poor state of repair with water leaking through the flat roofs into the classrooms and offices, if the water has leaked over asbestos materials then if any loose asbestos fibres were present the water will have carried them into the rooms. On drying the fibres are precipitated out and will become airborne when disturbed with the potential to be inhaled by the occupants. This link describes the potential asbestos risk from leaks

HSE
19 Aug
Building firm fined after asbestos disturbed at ... Rokeby Primary School in Rugby....... “What makes it worse is that this work was being carried out in a primary school where young children were in the next room. “We can’t stress enough how important it is for anyone carrying out building work to obtain the proper asbestos surveys and then act upon them.”
Aberdeen University
To this end the University Estates Section has invested significant resources in recent times on a rolling programme of inspection, repair and removal when required, to ensure that all remaining asbestos is in a safe condition.
Independent Asbestos Training Providers
19 Aug
By Chair of Education Group Institute of Occupational Safety and Health .... Around 75 per cent of Britain’s schools contain asbestos. With the right support and training schools can manage asbestos effectively. Learning to manage the risks in day-to-day activities is part of a good education. School pupils learn how to handle a wide variety of risks, from the busy road where a crossing or lollipop warden helps pupils to cross safely to the science lab where safety spectacles stop chemicals splashing into students’ eyes.
BBC
15 Aug
Exeter pre-school closed over asbestos discovery.. A building used by a play-group in Exeter has been closed following the discovery of asbestos.
13 Aug
Mirror

Evening Star
7 Aug

Britain's youngest asbestos victim: Sophie Ellis... Brave Sophie Ellis was just 13 when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given just months to live, but she defied the doctors' predictions and fought the disease until her death at 18 surrounded by her family. Despite being desperately ill, she spoke movingly about her ordeal last year in support of the Mirror's Asbestos Timebomb campaign and her startling story proved an inspiration.

Farewell to Sophie after five-year cancer battle .... because of the mesothelioma – an illness one more commonly associated with workers exposed to asbestos in which malignant cells develop in a protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs.

Mirror
13 Aug

 

Waltham Forest Guardian
13 Aug

Asbestos Timebomb .... Shock as schools found to have no asbestos safety plans... In response, councillor Saima Mahmud, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People that the council had accepted all the recommendations of the Health and Safety Executive."There's nothing more important than safeguarding our young people,,, From September onwards, school staff will be offered extensive training on how to keep accurate records of asbestos containing material. Similarly, asbestos awareness training is now an integral part of the borough's health and safety training programme, and a working group has been set up with Unison and other trade unions to review and update our policies and procedures, including our original asbestos plan.

Spot checks were carried out at four Walthamstow schools in June after the council failed to fully respond to a request for information by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). ..An inspector found Henry Maynard Junior School in Addison Road, Henry Maynard Infant School in Maynard Road, Kelmscott School in Markhouse Road and Willowfield Humanities College in Clifton Avenue did not have asbestos management plans, as required by law.

UNISON
11 Aug
An HSE Inspector visited Henry Maynard Infants and Juniors, Kelmscott and Willowfield Schools and found that “none of the four schools visited had an asbestos management plan” ..... “It is very worrying to learn that the Council has not been carrying out its duties to safeguard the children and employees who attend Waltham Forest Schools. The HSE have told us that the Council has not met the requirements of its own risk assessment and we now have a situation where the Council is being ordered to carry out its duties under health and safety legislation."
Asbestos News
10 Aug
Staffordshire County Council is looking to put up the building at Langdale Primary School in Clayton to help create a better learning environment for pupils. It would replace an existing classroom, which contains asbestos and dates back to the 1960s.
Cotswold Journal
6 Aug
A RENOWNED horticulturalist who developed the world famous Sissinghurst Castle gardens in Kent died from a lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, an inquest heard this week. Gloucestershire coroner Alan Crickmore heard that in the late 1940s and through most of the 1950s she stoked boilers at the Waterperry horticultural school near Oxford. But there was no other evidence of asbestos exposure either in her working or social life, said the coroner. He recorded an open verdict.
Service and Maintenance Industry News - 4 Aug According to the TUC, many schools put off investing in service and maintenance as they were expecting new premises or refurbishments as part of the now axed Building Schools for the Future programme...... In particular, it is worried about the danger of exposure to asbestos fibres, a material many older school buildings are thought to contain
Guardian
5 Aug

Education secretary will meet staff in Sandwell, where teachers were mistakenly told their schemes were not under threat...... Carl Siciliano, the school's governor, said asbestos riddled the school and teachers had had to close three classrooms and stop putting up pictures because of it.

Comment: Many, if not most of the schools that were going to be refurbished under the building schools for the future initiative (BSF) contain asbestos. It is known that some contain large amounts. All the asbestos is now old and it is known that some schools are of a type where they have a potential to release asbestos fibres into the classrooms, corridors and halls. When school buildings are replaced the asbestos problem is removed once and for all, also the previous Government had announced that asbestos would normally be removed when secondary schools are refurbished under BSF.

Manor Foundation school in Sandwell is of a type of building that is likely to contain considerable amounts of asbestos. According to the article it “is riddled with asbestos” and “teachers had to close three classrooms”. It is therefore concerning that the refurbishment/replacement of a school such as this has been put on hold. The Asbestos in Schools Group have asked the Government to identify the schools that contain the most dangerous asbestos materials and prioritise them for refurbishment or replacement.

Also see "Water leaks in schools and the implications for asbestos contamination"

UNISON
Aug 10
Every school has a duty to manage its asbestos plan under the Control of Asbestos Regulations which came into force in 2006 (2007 for NI). A head teacher is the duty manager and could be fined or even jailed for breaches of the regulations. ......... Further advice is contained in this bulletin
British Institute of Facilities Management
2 Aug
The government must hand over more money to improve school maintenance to avoid exposing staff and students to health risks, especially asbestos, the TUC said.... Stopping the school building programme puts children at risk of asbestos exposure, a hidden consequence of the government’s cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future Programme
Funding for Independent Schools (magazine)
1 Aug
Earlier in 2010, it was announced that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are making asbestos management in non-local authority schools a priority for action in 2010......... The HSE has the power to prosecute employers for breaches of asbestos safety laws and, if found guilty, they may be fined substantial sums
Lincolnshire Echo
30 July
UNIVERSITY staff and students have been warned they could have been exposed to asbestos..... "Following a review of the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials, the University has identified asbestos, which should be removed from the basements and boiler rooms in four of its older buildings and from the ceiling void of a fifth.

"We are contacting everyone who may have been in these areas recently and the University has appointed a specialist occupational health physician to provide support to those who have concerns.... "As an additional precaution, specialist consultants have been commissioned to re-survey all premises built before 2000."

News and Star - Cumbria
30 July
Asbestos fear after Cumbria school rebuilds axed...... Union leaders claim the scrapping of the government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme – which included £61.5 million to transform seven schools in Cumbria – could lead to an increased risk from asbestos for pupils and school staff......Meanwhile Cumbria County Council has moved to allay potential fears, stating the way asbestos is managed in its schools is over and above what is legally required.
TUC
27 July
Cancelling school building programme puts children at risk of asbestos exposure..... Many of the existing school buildings were built before 1970 and almost certainly contain asbestos. As these buildings fall into disrepair the risk of asbestos exposure increases dramatically. ...... Many schools have spent little on maintenance in the promise of being part of the new schools building programme.....

Patricia Cameron, from Capheaton, Northumberland, died in 2004 from mesothelioma, after she was first exposed to asbestos while working at Otterburn First School in the 1970s. A Coroner's inquest heard the mother-of-three had levels of asbestos in her body similar to that found in people who have worked in heavy industry..... Children exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than adult teachers in the same environment.

Dominion News
New Zealand
20 July
A retired Wellington principal who has terminal cancer after inhaling asbestos fibres at two schools he worked at is pleading for schools to be made asbestos-free..
Education Ministry spokeswoman Kim Shannon said a nationwide school asbestos survey was done in the mid-1980s. Any exposed hazardous asbestos was removed. "Schools are responsible for ensuring their buildings and grounds are free of hazards, including potentially unsafe asbestos." Financial support is available to schools to remove asbestos.

Comment: No nation wide survey ever conducted in UK, but many other countries including New Zealand, USA and Eire have done so.

Luton Today
22 July
"Deadly" asbestos inside the structure of a Bedford middle school was not being properly managed according to health and safety bosses. In April this year Bedford Borough Council was served with an improvement notice by the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) which claimed that the council had failed to review the asbestos management programme at Beauchamp Middle School in Hawk Drive

See below - HSE Enforcement Action 15 July 2010

Times Educational Supplement
19 July 2010
Letter from General Secretary VOICE: the Union for Education professionals ....However, the programme-makers are missing a really scandalous story about an issue that threatens the health and even the lives of children and staff: the presence of asbestos in about 75 per cent of schools in Britain, in ceilings, wall linings and pipe lagging. In the past 25 years, at least 178 teachers have died from mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. There are no statistics for pupil fatalities because of the disease's long latency. Research by ATAC (Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association) and by Voice reveal that in many schools staff are not aware of the dangers; they do not know where it is and are not involved in its management........
Education Business
July 2010
Written by Joanne Lewis, chair of the education group for the institution of Occupational Safety and Health.When the danger is hidden and its effects aren’t apparent until years later, it becomes more menacing and more difficult to manage – a monster in the cupboard waiting to pounce. Asbestos is just such a monster, prevalent in many of our schools as well as domestic properties. But with knowledge and effective management, we can tame it......

Comment A detailed, balanced article identifying problems and suggesting ways forward

HSE Enforcement Action
15 July 2010
The HSE have taken enforcement action because of failures by local authorities to ensure schools are safe from the dangers of asbestos. Quote from one HSE notice "You have failed to manage the risks from asbestos.. in particular the primary schools... You do not have adequate measures in place for monitoring the condition of any asbestos"

A press release is at the link above with the local authorities identified, the details of the breaches and evidence of the problem being endemic in schools in the UK. It also identifies action taken and needed by government.

ITV Wales
15 July 2010
Asbestos has claimed the lives of more than 700 people in Wales over the last decade, but tonight there is a warning that the number of asbestos related deaths is likely to double over the next five years. The material is still present in more than 90% of schools here.
Clinica Editorial
(Worlds leading provider of Medical Technology News)
21 June 2010
Plea to the UK government: Put asbestos among austerity priorities ......... to ensure the country does as much as it can to protect present and future generations from airborne asbestos – not least our children: the government is aware that many thousands of schools, even those deemed to be safe, expose children to significant levels of airborne asbestos, and the long-term health-related risks are uncontestable and great. .......

The first thing this country must do is embrace the reality of this situation. The government must be candid about what it knows – and what it suspects, but cannot be certain of – about asbestos exposure in schools and other public places.

Associated Press
4 June 2010
What are the effects of exposure to low levels of asbestos on children? Are children exposed to low levels of asbestos at greater risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma or autoimmune disorders later in life?

Researchers with the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York in partnership with the Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Montana and the University of Montana are tackling those questions in an ambitious five-year, $4.8 million study of the effects of low level childhood exposure to asbestos. They are using as a research population people who attended high school in Libby, Montana from 1950 through 1990, then moved away and haven’t returned to live.

Comment: “It is excellent news that a five year study has been funded by the US Federal Government to investigate the risks from childhood exposure to asbestos. The study is led by one of the world’s leading experts in the field Professor Stephen Levin of Mount Sinai school of medicine.”

HSE Enforcement Notice 302512830 against Glasgow City Council HSE Enforcement Notice "You have failed to manage the risks from asbestos in non-domestic premises ............ in particular the primary schools under the control of Glasgow City Council in that you do not have adequate measures in place for monitoring the condition of any asbestos or any substance containing or suspected of containing asbestos and that you have failed to ensure the measures specified in your plan have been properly implemented."

Comment: Glasgow City Council fails to protect primary school chuldren from asbestos. All local authorities and schools were advised some twenty five years ago to identify their asbestos by extent, type and condition, implement a system of asbestos management and monitor the state of the asbestos and the effectiveness of the plan. This was put into law in 2004. The problem is compounded by the appalling state of a large number of the city’s schools. In 2008 out of 170 primary schools 68 were in either a poor or bad condition. If the condition of the fabric of a building is poor then it is inevitable that the asbestos it contains will be also.

In response to a Scottish Parliament petition in 2009 concerning the management of asbestos in schools Glasgow City Council stated: "“It is generally safer, especially when it is undamaged, to manage asbestos in situ, since there can often be a greater hazard created in removing the material.Glasgow City Council’s policy is to manage asbestos, which is in safe condition, in situ.”. It is only safer to leave the asbestos in situ if there is an effective system of asbestos management, however the council have failed to implement the most basic system of asbestos management.

It is disgraceful that Glasgow City Council have failed in their duty of care. Without doubt the failure of the council to comply with the law has put at risk many hundreds, if not thousands, of the most vulnerable children.

Click Liverpool

Coventry Telegraph
21 April

The widow of a retired teacher from Liverpool is suing the secondary school where her husband taught in the belief it contributed to his death. Sheila Schofield, from Southport, believes her husband Brian was exposed to asbestos while teaching at Foxford School in Coventry.Mrs Sheila Schofield said: "It’s not about compensation, it’s about getting answers. I just want to know where his cancer came from so I can finally put this to rest."

Her solicitors said: "Brian’s entirely avoidable death serves as a tragic reminder of the need for awareness of the presence of asbestos in our schools and the dangers this may pose to teachers and pupils. It is accepted that even low levels of exposure to asbestos dust can cause mesothelioma. It is essential that as many former pupils and teachers of Foxford School, particularly those who remember Brian or who attended the school at the same time, contact us. They may have crucial information which could assist Sheila Schofield in her fight for justice."

The Coventry Telegraph web coverage is at this link.

BBC News
16 April
Thames Valley University site shuts down over asbestos fears. A university in Berkshire has temporarily closed one of its sites while it investigates the possible presence of asbestos......The university will also contact parents of children who go to a nursery at Crescent Road to discuss alternative options.
HSE Notice: asbestos ceiling tiles damaged and not reported for a week in a junior school
5 April

 

The HSE improvement Notice 302393511 served against the London Borough of Barnet is at this link

Comment: Contractors drilled 15 holes in an asbestos ceiling of a toilet in a junior school. The toilets remained in use as the incident was not reported to the school authorities until a week later. This would have released a significant number of asbestos fibres which would have exposed the workman and contaminated the toilets and anyone who entered them. As asbestos fibres disperse it is not surprising that a week later the air tests were clear. It would appear from the description that the ceiling tiles were asbestos insulating board, which contains amosite.  The contractor had been told that the tiles contained asbestos but was incorrectly told the type of asbestos, therefore it appears he was quite content to drill holes in a material that he thought contained just chrysotile (white asbestos) This demonstrates how misinformation about white asbestos posing an insignificant or no risk can, and does, lead to dangerous releases of asbestos fibres. HSE took enforcement action against the school.

National Union of Teachers Press Release 6 April The extremely serious issue of asbestos in schools was debated today (Tuesday) at the NUT’s conference in Liverpool, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers union said; “The NUT was the first teachers union to campaign to have asbestos removed from schools and yet despite the problem being brought to the attention of successive governments it is still the case that asbestos remains in most schools.

“The number of teachers dying from the affects of asbestos has increased year on year with a total of 178 teachers dying from mesothelioma since 1980. These figures however, are only the tip of the iceberg as there are no figures for children. .........It is completely unacceptable that pupils and school staff’s lives are put at risk by school buildings. This is not an insurmountable problem we know what is causing the deaths and we know what should be done. We are delighted that the Government has agreed to set up a steering group to look at the next steps to tackle the problem, and hope that this will mean we can finally rid schools of this menace, keeping children and teachers safe from asbestos related asbestos disease.

“Schools are a special place because they contain children. It is a gross dereliction of duty to them and other staff that this silent killer is allowed to remain in schools due to a lack of political will”

Wembley and Kingsbury Times
18 March
Mrs Bowman is looking for answers about where she got her terminal illness.. she believed she may have breathed in asbestos when she was at school at William Gladstone High School, in Neasden, in the late 1970s. Mr Kelleher said: "I know the place was ridden with asbestos... "It was a few years after I left that all the students came out of that school and then they decided to basically demolish it.".. "The reason they demolished it was asbestos in the ceilings.... I can vaguely remember them doing works in the school. The bit I remember is they had ladders in the corridors and they had the ceiling tiles down."

On hearing the news, Ms Bowman, pictured, said: "I'm shocked really that someone else actually knows (asbestos was in the school). "Everywhere I've gone for answers, I've been blocked. Now it seems it was an open secret."

Comment Brent Council make a number of statements in the article which are misleading and appear to be factually wrong. The facts they get wrong are at this link and the intent appears to be to unjustifiably deny knowledge and responsibility

Ulster Herald
15 Mar

Association of Training and Lecturers

Asbestos still in over 200 local schools. .... The Western Education and Library Board confirm that asbestos traces have been found in 215 schools – 117 primary and 38 secondary. Of those, 45 primary and 17 secondary schools contain traces of amosite, more commonly known as brown asbestos, and more dangerous than the more common variety. ..... "Northern Ireland's policy of asbestos management differed from the south, where asbestos is removed from schools even where it is not considered a risk."

Mark Langhammer - Northern Ireland Director of ATL: "This situation is unacceptable, and ATL calls on the government to stop dithering and change its policy on asbestos in schools and colleges."...

Clinica
2 Mar
(Worlds leading provider of Medical Technology News)
Shocking new data from a previously unpublished government report was unveiled today by Clinica MedTech Intelligence, indicating that the problem of asbestos exposure in schools is worse than previously publicised. .......... Clinica can also reveal, exclusively, that scientific calculations on exposure levels in schools and other specific environments were omitted from official guidance published 11 years ago.

An unpublished "final draft" of a Department of the Environment (DETR) document, Asbestos and man-made mineral fibres in buildings, dated August 1998, obtained by Clinica, adds to mounting concerns about the safety of children and those working in schools.  A table of "lifetime" exposure calculations and estimates of the impact of poorly maintained or deteriorating asbestos-containing materials on contamination levels, was omitted from the final published version of the guidance document dated August 1999.

The table calculates that school-children will breathe three million fibres during their 12-year schooling life, based on a level of 0.0005 fibres per millilitre (f/ml) of air, as attributed to an interior environment with asbestos materials in "good condition". Of this "good condition" estimate, Michael Lees, a schools asbestos safety campaigner, is scathing: "That might be the case in some schools, but all the asbestos is now old and much is deteriorating," he told Clinica. "It has been found that when you slam doors, hit the walls or sit on the window sills, the levels can be up to 0.33 f/ml and 0.44 f/ml [660-880 times higher]," he explained.

Daily Express Telegraph Education News, Daily Mail, Local Government Chronicle,Dash.com (Public Sector News),
Feb
Each paper reported the pilot survey of schools by the Asbestos Training and Consultancy that, in the reports executive summary, said “In the majority of these schools the systems of asbestos management are not of an acceptable standard, they are ineffective and at times dangerous.” ...... “The majority had unacceptable standards which were either ineffective or unworkable and with the potential to cause a contamination or exposure incident. In one school, the system of asbestos management was virtually non-existent despite the fact that there was a significant amount of asbestos known to be present.”

Comment: The full report is at this link. A short summary of the situation is at this link with individual statements from the General Secretaries of all the Teaching Unions and the school support unions. DCSF has produced a misleading press statement that is quoted by a few of the reporters. It is at this link followed by a factual analysis of its dangerously misleading "spin":

Reading Post
1 March 10
Almost all schools in Reading have asbestos in their buildings, councillors have been told.......The council has an asbestos officer who has visited most of the schools in question and advised people on site how to complete a management plan for asbestos.
Daily Mirror
25 Feb
Millions of pupils and teachers in Britain's schools are in danger of exposure to deadly asbestos, a shock report reveals today. The findings by experts, who were invited to test sample the nation's 25,000 schools to see the true extent of the killer dust problem, makes disturbing reading for all working in education and parents. ... not a single school had a written asbestos management plan of an acceptable standard. And the damning report backs one of the key demands of the Mirror's Asbestos Timebomb campaign - that there should be a public register of asbestos surveys in all public buildings, including schools. Last night all the biggest teaching unions, MPs and asbestos campaigners voiced their concerns about the scale of the problem and pressed for urgent government action.

Comment: The report is at this link. A short summary of the situation is at this link with individual statements from the General Secretaries of all the Teaching Unions and the school support unions. DCSF has produced a misleading press statement. It is at this link followed by a factual analysis of its dangerously misleading "spin".:

BBC News
22 Feb
Some British schools are not meeting a legal duty to protect their pupils from potentially deadly asbestos, a snapshot survey of 16 schools suggests. The report by the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association said none of the 16 schools was meeting health and safety rules on managing the substance. Teaching unions want a full audit of the danger from asbestos, which can cause a lethal form of cancer

Comment:The AtaC report is at this link. A short summary of the situation is at this link. It includes individual statements from the General Secretaries of all the Teaching Unions and the school support unions. DCSF has produced a misleading press statement that the BBC article quotes. The full DCSF press statement is at this link followed by a factual analysis of its dangerously misleading "spin".

Highland News
25 Feb
A LOCAL politician has vowed to put pressure on the Scottish Government to look at the issue of asbestos in schools after a damning report highlighted failings of education chiefs to protect pupils and staff.......But then we discovered the council had not kept accurate records of where asbestos was lurking in its buildings...........The council went out to tender on a contract to have surveys of all its educational establishments carried out. But it emerged that only happened after the intervention of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which served the council with an improvement notice under Control of Asbestos regulations and the Safety at Work Act.
International Ban Asbestos Secretariat UK Asbestos news: Good and Bad. A simple brief on Government action on asbestos issues
Get Wokingham
16 Feb
Asbestos exposed in classroom. Workmen drilling a wall over the Christmas holidays disturbed the substance, which is known to cause the lung cancer mesothelioma. Last month’s snowy weather meant that pupils had several days off but when they returned in mid-January, it was not until four days after they came back that the asbestos was discovered.

Comment: Despite the fact that contractors had damaged asbestos in a nursery school, the staff and children were allowed to return to the school, and it was four days later that the damage was discovered and measures taken to make the classroom safe. The asbestos was damaged because of a serious failure in asbestos management in the school, the problem was then compounded as the damaged asbestos was not made safe before the occupants of the school had potentially been exposed.

Sec Ed
(Specialist teaching magazine)
11 Feb
Teacher left in the dark over asbestos in schools. Half of teachers say that no-one in their school has received training on asbestos management, a survey has revealed. The research, carried out by the teaching union Voice, also found that three-quarters of teachers had not been told where asbestos was located in their building or were “unaware if they had been told or not”.

Philip Parkin, general secretary of Voice, said that there needed to be an immediate programme of awareness-raising among teachers.

The Independent
7 Feb
Inspectors say schools fail to protect pupils and staff from asbestos ..... Asbestos tests on dozens of schools have revealed "unacceptable" safety standards that could be putting thousands of of children and teachers at risk... Analysts who conducted the nationwide survey found that too few head teachers manage asbestos properly; many rely on containment plans more than a decade old and some have never drawn up plans at all.

The audit, by the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association, also found that some schools had asbestos particles in the air ......... A preliminary report said that most schools are failing to comply with their legal "duty to manage" the asbestos, that the responsibility for ensuring safety was dogged by confusion, and that staff training was "either poor or non-existent".

Comment: A report will be published later this month that shows unacceptable standards of asbestos management in schools
This is Gloucestershire
23 Jan
A large part of Tewkesbury School has been cordoned off due to asbestos fears. Head teacher John Reilly has stressed the measure is a precautionary one and that pupils and staff are in no danger. He said the school's caretaker had discovered flaking paint on an area by the roof of the main block, raising fears that asbestos underneath may have been damaged. "It seems the snow and then the thaw caused the paint to blister. We had the county council out to look at it on Monday," he said. "The worry is that underneath that, there is asbestos. If it's not disturbed, it's safe but if it's disturbed it could get out into the environment. We've had to cordon off the area just in case there's an asbestos release."
The Press and Journal
9 January 2010
MSP wants school hazards to be tackled more effectively - Council urged to face up to asbestos danger.
Scarborough Evening News
17 December
An Eastfield parish councillor is calling for the Government to provide more funding to schools to tackle the problem of asbestos. Cllr Graham Elliott said more and more teachers and pupils were being subjected to “life threatening respiratory health problems” due to the lack of funding.
This is Hampshire
14 December
David Kitchin, aged 60, died from malignant mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at Farleigh School near Andover, it is claimed. Mr Kitchin.. was a master.. at the school between 1966 and 1969, and 1974 and 1986, when he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust and fibres in the Stone Passageway, the route into the main school – according to a High Court writ. .....Overhead central heating and hot water pipes lagged with blue asbestos ran in the passageway, and the lagging was friable, making the atmosphere contaminated with asbestos, the writ says. It is claimed that pupils also disturbed the lagging by jumping up to swing on the pipes.

Mr Kitchin died on 21 January 2009

Parliamentary Question Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) in how many schools in (a) Essex and (b) Castle Point has asbestos been found in the last three years; [303790] (2) if he will publish Essex County Council's response to his Department's survey of the (a) presence and (b) management of asbestos in schools in Essex; and if he will make a statement. [303879]

Mr. Coaker [holding answer 7 December 2009]: The Department's survey asked for information on whether schools contain asbestos containing materials. It also asked questions about asbestos management in local authorities and schools. The Department did receive a response from Essex county council but we are not in a position to publish any of the local authority responses as this information may be required for legal purposes. The Health and Safety Executive is planning follow up investigations in 2010 in a number of local authorities to clarify the information provided.

Comment This concerns the DCSF questionnaire that attempted to assess the management of asbestos in schools and the compliance with HSE guidance on asbestos in System built schools. In his answer the Schools Minister, Vernon Coaker MP has refused to publish any of the responses from the questionnaire. The Minister’s reason for his refusal is that “this information may be required for legal purposes.” The same reply was given by HSE to the asbestos in schools group at their meeting with the Parliamentary Under–Secretary Dianne Johnson MP when they asked which local authorities were being investigated and which had failed to reply.

It is unacceptable that the Minister refuses to publish the names of the councils that have failed to reply or are being investigated, for as well as being a legal matter this is a matter that affects the safety of the occupants of schools. Therefore the names of the failing councils who are potentially putting teachers, support staff and children at risk should be made public without further delay.

For further information see : 11 Nov: Meeting with the new Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP   

 DCSF Questionnaire - 15 Nov 09 Determining the scale of the problem in System Built Schools

Highland News Investigative report
3 Dec
An investigative report into asbestos in Scottish schools that appears to have triggered an improvement notice from HSE and revealed that many schools have not had, or have had inadequate, asbestos surveys.

One council insider said:...... “ To reach the stage of an Improvement Notice is a serious state of affairs which would suggest the council has not been bothering its backside about the regulations governing asbestos....“Contractors have come in and done surveys on schools in the past and the management was so shambolic no-one knew where the surveys were kept and no-one had overall responsibility for managing asbestos. In some cases, surveys were given to head teachers and in some cases they were not.”

Highlands MSP Mary Scanlon, said: “This looks like a catalogue of failure in management of a potential health hazard.

At the link is the full report, but there is also a petition to the Scottish Parliament and background evidence that further illustrates the problem in Scotland.

Scottish Parliament Public Petitions
Dec 09
  1. A public petition to the Scottish Parliament about action on asbestos in schools
  2. Action being taken on the petition
Highland News
Leader
3 Dec 09
Obtaining information from Highland Council about how it is dealing with the problem of asbestos in schools has proved to be difficult. An on-going investigation by the HN has now learned that a notice has been slapped on the council by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), ordering it to get its act together. The HSE instruction ............................ was actually served as far back as May - it appears after a major scare at Nairn Academy - and has been kept under wraps......

Several weeks ago, the HN learned that contract documents issued by the council revealed no surveys for asbestos had been carried out in 65 schools in the region and 58 had only had partial surveys.....When we asked for the names of the schools involved, we were suspicious about the delaying tactic employed when the council decided to treat our request under the time-consuming Freedom of Information Act......... The eventual response we received did not contain the list of schools ........................ No mention was made of the HSE notice........

Many will wonder exactly what the council is playing at when figures on which firms are being asked to tender change dramatically within a few weeks. That would appear to confirm the HSE's worries about record-keeping on a crucial health issue for staff and pupils.

But it also brings into question the manner in which this whole issue is being dealt with.........it is recognised that asbestos is a difficult and potentially extremely costly issue for the education service to deal with at a time of financial constraint - but it serves no purpose to attempt to hide the reality from the public.

Parliamentary Oral Answer
30 Nov
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): What consideration has the Secretary of State given to having a full assessment of the asbestos levels in schools, and what can we do to eradicate all asbestos from our schools, and particularly the ones in Chorley? Ms Diana R. Johnson: My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we have been having a series of meetings on this very subject. I recently met the Health and Safety Minister in the House of Lords to discuss it, so it is an ongoing issue. I am happy to have a meeting with my hon. Friend if that would be helpful
BBC TV News
30 Nov
An excellent 5 minute feature on the results of a recent unsatisfactory survey of asbestos in schools by DCSF. "Asbestos is versatile and fire resistant and used to be used routinely in the construction of school buildings. However, it is also has a high health risk. The government says as long as asbestos is maintained in a good condition and closely monitored it poses no risk to teachers or pupils. However, there is growing concern that the problem is not being taken seriously enough."

Report to HSE as dangerous occurence under RIDDOR

Norfolk

"Asbestos Release in Norfolk Schools. Damaged asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were recently discovered in two Norfolk schools and had to be reported to the HSE as Dangerous Occurrences under RIDDOR. In both cases asbestos was released as a result of materials being damaged by pupils - by kicking a ball against ceiling panels that contained asbestos; and by damage to a door panel containing ACMs. In each case local defect reporting procedures failed to identify the damage and routine inspections of ACMs had not been carried out by the premises manager. As a result there was no way of knowing when the damage had occurred and how many people had been exposed. "

Comment This probably relates to the report shown here on 28 April from the Eastern Daily Press for one school with damaged ceiling tiles. At that time we produced detailed comment - which is repeated here. The comment appears fully justified and many questions have still not been answered

Earlier Comment: Ceiling tiles are a known risk. They are specifically covered in HSE guidance. It is known that this ceiling tile contained asbestos and it is likely that it is asbestos insulating board, which normally contains brown asbestos, amosite, and must be handled with great care so as not to release the fibres. Also asbestos fibres and debris can rest on the top surface of the tile so that when it is disturbed the fibres filter down through the smallest crack or gap. Asbestos fibres can readily pass wherever air can pass..

It is known that hitting an AIB panel can release significant levels of asbestos fibres, with tests giving levels more than forty times greater than that at which the room can be legally occupied. In this case the ceiling tile was fractured so it must be assumed that considerable force was used. This would inevitably have released large quantities of asbestos fibres that would have filtered down into the room below. As the material is friable it also releases asbestos debris when it is broken, which, if crushed underfoot, releases even more asbestos fibres.

It would be interesting to know the following

  • Why the perceived risk was considered so low that it did not justify carrying out air tests.
  • What tests and test conditions identified the fibre release as “minor” and the levels of exposure of the occupants as “exceedingly low, almost nil.
  • If that is the case why it is considered necessary to seal the room and carry out an environmental clean of the area, which is a disruptive and most expensive exercise.

There is a natural temptation for authorities to be very reassuring after an incident when the reassurances cannot always be justified The problem with this is that future cases of damaged ceiling tiles may be assumed by school staff to be a minor problem – not worth reporting – when HSE guidance is that teachers, other staff and pupils should be instructed to report such damage immediately so that it can be repaired and any contamination dealt with. This does not appear to have happened. One wonders how long it was before the damaged tile was spotted as the damage was apparently only reported and dealt with following an inspection. On the face of it this seems a failure in asbestos management.

From the description of the damage and the reassurances given, pupils and teachers should not be overly concerned about this incident as it appears to be an isolated incident with asbestos fibre release over a short period of time. But the fact is that however good asbestos management might be, where there are children there always is the potential that an accident, vandalism or boisterous behaviour will damage asbestos and release the fibres.

It does not help children's safety to gloss over such incidents . It tends to make staff, caretakers and pupils in every school believe that the risk of asbestos fibre release from fractured tiles does not matter, releases "almost nil" fibres and need not be reported urgentl

Keightley News
26 Nov
The school lost costumes and equipment because asbestos was discovered near the room where it was stored. Specialist contractors recommended that stored items including costumes and props were destroyed...... A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire County Council said an asbestos survey in June, in advance of building work, revealed some asbestos material in the school cellar area.
SecEd
19 Nov
HSE can no longer "put a gloss" on how asbestos is managed in schools after the findings of a national survey into the issue (see page 2 of the link)
Rochdale on Line
17 Nov
Rochdale MP and Liberal Democrat Health and Safety spokesman, Paul Rowen, has this met with School’s Minister Diana Johnson MP to discuss the Government’s current strategy regarding asbestos in schools Diana Johnson MP has now agreed to look into forming a working party on the issue.

Mr Rowen said: “This meeting is the most recent step in our campaign to highlight and tackle the problem of asbestos in schools. The current system to control asbestos is failing our pupils and teachers, who are being exposed to the incurable disease of mesothelioma in later life."However, my major concern is for primary schools both in Rochdale and throughout the country that will not be covered under the Building Schools for the Future Program. This is a major problem.

"The Government needs to make sure that there are people in place at the Department for Children, Schools and families who are sufficiently qualified to deal with this problem. This is something that the Minister accepted and agreed to look into.

Bedfordshire on Sunday
14 Nov
School asbestos find kept from pupils’ parents..... mother of the child added: “We just keep getting told different stories by the children. Apparently one child was told she could get cancer if she breathed the asbestos in. I can’t believe the parents haven’t been told anything. There are toxic and hazardous signs up around it but the teachers seem to be oblivious to asbestos and the children could be exposed."

“I phoned the school this week to be referred to environmental health at the council but then when I spoke to them they told me to go back to the school."
Scottish Parliament Question 53W-28518 To ask the Scottish Executive how many schools have been identified as containing asbestos in the fabric of the buildings, broken down by schools in each local authority area. Answered by Keith Brown (Thursday, November 12, 2009): The information requested is not held centrally. Health and Safety Regulations require duty holders who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of buildings in their control to manage the risks arising from asbestos. In the case of publicly funded schools that is the local authority. The Health and Safety Executive provides advice and guidance to local authorities and others on the management of asbestos.
Evening Express
12 Nov
The Press and Journal
13 Nov
Asbestos found on Aberdeen school site....... Asbestos was discovered after demolition crews began knocking down the old school this month....... Author Graeme Traill, the council’s 3Rs education adviser, said: “During the demolition surveys significant quantities of asbestos were discovered in the structure of the building........"

It follows similar finds during work at the new Manor Park Primary and the renovation of Seaton Primary,

BBC News
12 Nov
A council which exposed 10 of its employees to asbestos dust has been fined £14,000. City of Edinburgh Council joiners found the white dust while cutting a hole through a door that had been removed from Castlebrae Community High School.......In February of this year the authority was fined £17,600 after workers were exposed to asbestos while demolishing a wall at the same school.
Oldham Advertiser
11 Nov
The mother of the youngest person in the UK to die from an asbestos-related cancer says she’ll never stop searching for the truth about her daughter’s death. Brave Leigh Carlisle died last year, aged 28, after a two-year battle against mesothelioma – a form of lung cancer caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. Leigh, from Failsworth, and lawyers acting on her behalf, believed she had developed the disease during childhood.
The Press
7 Nov
Asbestos claims more York victims as Coroner rules that mesothelioma cause of deaths......He said the firm had many commercial and private contracts, including some work on schools, which involved working in boiler rooms alongside other tradesmen, without protective masks, and said he had often been involved in sweeping up where there was asbestos dust.
Messenger
7 Nov
Woman raises awareness about asbestos after husband's death....It is when asbestos fibres are inhaled, by builders working with the material on sites, or teachers in an asbestos-filled classroom, that fatalities occur.
Birmingham Post
4 Nov
Death rates in the West Midlands from asbestos-related lung disease Mesothelioma have continued to surge, according to latest official reports..... West Midlands industrial illness lawyer Alida Coates, of Irwin Mitchell, said the fight for justice for Mesothelioma sufferers would continue for years as thousands were still dying from the disease, which does not reveal itself for more than 15 years after exposure to mainly asbestos dust. Builders, factory workers and even teachers had been shown to be at risk from exposure to the harmful cancer-causing particles.....
Daily Post
North Wales News
A STAGGERING 250 men in North Wales have died of asbestos poisoning since 1981. .....And the Health and Safety Executive said thousands more across the country will be killed by mesothelioma – lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure – over the coming decades, having contracted the disease after working on buildings or with materials containing the substance.

Comment Unfortunately there is a misleading statement reported from an official about asbestos in schools in this article. The statement is one of the standard misleading statements covered on the home page of this site. The statement, the flaws in it and authoritative references are at this link

The Shields Gazette
1 Nov
THE removal of potentially deadly asbestos from South Tyneside schools is a top priority, says a new report
Mesothelioma UK Charitable Trust Bulletin Bulletin page 6 - a simple one page update on asbestos in schools activity and political advances over the past year
Freelance Investigative Journalist.
30 Oct
Article on asbestos in Welsh schools ....I also interviewed Tim Cox, of the NASUWT, who said the dangers of asbestos were causing increasing concern for union members. “I think this is one of the most important issues we’ve ever had to deal with,” he stated. “We are talking about the long-term health of the population of Wales. We are talking about the teachers and support staff in schools at the moment but we are also talking about the children, the children of Wales, over the next 10 to 20 years, who could be affected by this terrible, terrible disease.”...... - Greg Lewis
Highland News Leader article
22 Oct
The fact the local authority does not know if the deadly material is present or a risk in almost one-third of its schools because they have not been surveyed is worrying, and only 74 of the 197 have had full surveys..... we have concerns over the council's refusal to reveal which schools have not had full surveys, despite several requests over a 10-day period during our investigation. ......We believe that the public, and more importantly the parents with children at the schools, have a right to know now where the potential risks are – and not have this information tied up and concealed in red tape and arousing suspicions.
London Evening Standard The widower of teacher Joan Henry who died from mesothelioma - a cancer linked to asbestos - received £180,000 in an out-of-court settlement in July. Mrs Henry died in 2007 aged 57 after a 30-year career. She had worked in two east London schools whose buildings contained asbestos............. Mrs Henry's husband Stephen said: ....

"And what about the pupils? Parents need to know their children could be affected by this. Most Inner London Education Authority schools built around the same time had a similar amount of asbestos. Central government knows this stuff is there."

Sunday Express
25 October
Asbestos killed mother before she saw justice....... “I told Dianne we had won as she was dying and she seemed so relieved to have beaten the appeal.“We didn’t tell her that they were coming after us again. It’s despicable, but at least she died not knowing what they were doing.” The original case in July found Knowsley Council had a duty of care for the staff and children, and that they had failed in that duty....Earlier this year, Ed Balls was forced to admit that asbestos can be left in primary schools when their buildings are being refurbished.
Highland News
22 Oct
HIGHLAND Council doesn't know where asbestos is lurking in 123 of its schools. And this week the local authority refused to reveal schools involved, despite repeated requests from the Highland News................. full asbestos surveys are only currently available for only 74 schools in the Highlands...... The shock figure is revealed in documents being issued by the council to firms for "asbestos management" in 197 schools across the region.

Comment: Identifying the extent, type and condition of asbestos is the first step in managing the asbestos, and yet a third of schools in the Highland local authority do not have an asbestos survey, a further third only have partial surveys. Out of the 197 schools, the condition of the fabric of the building in 126 is rated as poor and a further nine as bad. It is quite clear these schools have not been well maintained and as the fabric of the buildings has deteriorated then it is inevitable that any asbestos materials they contain will have deteriorated as well. As 65 schools have no idea what asbestos they contain or what condition it is in and therefore they cannot manage the asbestos.

Irwin Mitchell statement
17 Oct
The husband of a teacher who died of asbestos-related lung disease has received an out of court settlement from the local authorities responsible for the schools she worked in. Mr Henry said “My wife died for no other reason than breathing the air in her workplace. I hope that her death can help raise awareness of how important it is for education authorities to take all necessary steps in schools so that no one else contracts this devastating and painful disease.”

Mr Henry’s solicitor said “We are seeing more cases like this where exposure to even low levels of asbestos in the workplace are accepted as a cause of mesothelioma. Joan Henry’s avoidable death highlights the importance of identifying whether school buildings contain asbestos and the necessity of keeping it properly maintained if is not going to be removed”.

BBC Today Programme
Sat 17 Oct
Follow this link for an interview with Michael Lees on the Today programme about what the Government is being asked to do to identify asbestos in schools and do risk assesments folowing Dianne Willmore's death and the Appeal Court ruling in her favour.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8311000/8311979.stm

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
15 Oct
In Remembrance of Dianne Willmore
This is Derbyshire
17 Oct
Derby City Council is anxious to tell parents and staff that "there was no detectable release of asbestos fibres".But some kitchen staff are concerned. One, who did not wish to be named, said: "The store cupboard may have been sorted but the rest of the kitchen ceiling is covered in the same tiles. What if we have another water leak that affects them or brings them down? I didn't realise that there is any asbestos in the school."
Liverpool Daily Post
17 Oct
Knowsley cancer victim dies hours after fresh bid to claw back her asbestos payout launched
Mirror
16 Oct
The case of Dianne, who sued Knowsley Council on Merseyside, adds weight to the Mirror's campaign for a register of all asbestos surveys in all public buildings. Her solicitor Ruth Davies said: "I am angry Dianne did not have the chance to enjoy her compensation."
BBC News
15 Oct
Mother dies after asbestos payout. A woman who battled for two years for a payout after contracting an asbestos-related disease has died a day after a judge said she should be paid £240,000

Dianne Willmore, 49, from north Wales, passed away on Thursday from malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused mainly by breathing in asbestos. She inhaled the dangerous substance as a pupil at Huyton's Bowring School in Merseyside in the 1970s.

Liverpool Daily Post
17 Oct
Asbestos saga that is a long running tragedy. The timing could hardly have been worse for all concerned. Just as Knowsley Council declared it would fight to the bitter end not to compensate Dianne Willmore for the crippling illness she said she contracted as a result of asbestos exposure back in the 1970s, she died as a result of the illness.
Malta and Tasmania
6 Oct
This week the Governments of both Malta and Tasmania have taken the decision to remove asbestos from their schools. In MaltaA three phase project has been drawn up for the removal of asbestos products from state schools, Education Minister Dolores Cristina told Parliament.”  

In TasmaniaMinister for Workplace Relations, Lisa Singh MP, today announced action to reduce the impact of asbestos on Tasmanians. “I’m not interested in the politics of sitting on the sidelines complaining about an issue, I want to get stuck in and make a difference. “That is what we are doing in dealing with asbestos. “We have begun working with the Commonwealth through the stimulus package and the Building in Education Revolution spending to remove asbestos from schools.”

Comment If schools in the UK are to be made as safe as those in Malta and Tasmania then perhaps our Government should ask the Commonwealth for assistance in removing asbestos from our schools.

Bury Times Springside Primary School shut over asbestos worries

Comment: A primary school in Lancashire has closed and the staff and pupils sent home after air tests found raised asbestos fibre levels.  A council spokesman stated ”Earlier this week a regular air test was conducted and the asbestos readings from this test are higher than expected, but still within accepted risk levels.... Council officials have investigated the situation and repeat tests have shown concern in other areas. After discussions, we felt it was appropriate to close the school whilst investigative work takes place.”

Springfields is a typical System built school and is likely to contain significant amounts of asbestos materials. One must question why the air sampling was being carried out. Also if airborne asbestos fibres were found and the readings were higher than expected then it needs to be asked what the levels were, and what grounds the council spokesman has to make the statement that the levels were “within accepted risk levels,” as there are “accepted” risk levels for contractors working on asbestos, but no such levels for the occupants of buildings and certainly no such levels for primary school children.

Denbighshire Visitor
7 Oct
FIFTY six schools in Denbighshire are still waiting to have deadly asbestos removed from their buildings.

All of the councils said nobody had been sick or off ill because of asbestos, though an inquest last spring found retired teacher Renee Blodwen Eden, 69, from Anglesey, was most likely killed by exposure to asbestos in a school building in Flintshire. She retired in 1998

UNISON representative said: "This shows a total lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the risks with asbestos through day to day working and living with the materials... Many of the symptoms don’t show for a number of years and in most cases it is too late for medical intervention.....I believe the quote from the local councils that no one has reported any illness or side affects in these schools is unacceptable. Are they sitting back and waiting for children to be diagnosed later in life?

"We will be contacting the HSE to request urgent risk assessments are carried out and the findings of the assessments made public to all parents and staff."

Daily Post
6 Oct
Asbestos in 400 schools across North Wales ....... More than 400 schools are still waiting to have deadly asbestos removed from their buildings........Unison last night blasted education bosses for failing to remove the potentially deadly substance and have called for risk assessments to be made public.
Australia
ABC News
Daily Telegraph
Queensland Government to publish asbestos in schools register - ABC News...........The State Government in October will publish an online register of schools in which asbestos is present. It will be updated each school term with the intent of informing parents where school buildings contain asbestos. - Daily Telegraph

Comment The problems of asbestos in schools in Australia is similar to those in the United Kingdom, however in Queensland they are taking steps to address the problem, as part of that they are adopting a policy of openness. Having examined a number of schools an independent inspector stated “We have come across registers that are grossly out of date and have not been reaudited, and we are not seeing any asbestos management plans. They (the Government) are not really on top of it.”  The Government however claim that "We believe the safety practices are strong and robust but we're taking no chances," consequently they have now appointed their own inspector and have taken the decision to publish their school’s asbestos registers on line, which will be accessible to staff and parents.  Which is precisely what should happen in the United Kingdom.  

All Business / Morning Star
16 Sept
Dr Mary Bousted Association of Teachers and Lecturers ...Surveys of asbestos in schools only identify easily accessible materials. They do not identify hidden asbestos and rarely identify airborne fibres. We are calling for sampling to take place in 100 schools, which Asbestos Testing and Consultancy says it will do at no cost. So what are we waiting for?
Tyrone Times
29 Sept
Asbestos in SELB schools. Documents obtained from the Board reveal that asbestos is known to be present in almost 90% of the 300 schools across the southern region
Eastbourne Herald
28 Sept
Deadly asbestos lurked in teacher's cupboard...... A former Ratton School teacher died of cancer likely to have been caused by asbestos in the school, an inquest found. In a witness statement he gave while he was ill which was read out at the inquest, Mr Beck explained there was a store cupboard with shelves made of asbestos in the classroom where he was based for the majority if the 25 years he worked at the school. He used the cupboard daily, picking up and putting down books and paperwork on the asbestos shelves
Strathspey Herald
24 Sept
Asbestos menace found in school

Comment: “During window removal in a Scottish school asbestos has been found, the classroom was sealed off and asbestos contractors have been called in to complete the work. According to the article the asbestos is in the window sealant mastic, and the workers staff and parents have been assured that there is no risk. In this particular case if the only asbestos is that in the mastic then the assurances of the council are justified. This does go to prove however that whatever asbestos exists in a school it always poses a potential problem, which in this case will lead to additional costs and disruption to all involved.”

Swindon Advertiser
15 Sep
Asbestos to be removed from Commonweal school ..... The asbestos removal is part of a series of works to spruce up the 83-year-old building in The Mall.....According to a Swindon Council spokesman the work is 25 per cent complete and should be finished by next summer.
The Shields Gazette
14 Sep
Asbestos found in most of our schools
Sec Ed Mesothelioma victim labels expert's comments 'unacceptable'. Government advisor claims .... "Teacher's Unions whipped into a frenzy over asbestos...it is not a case of inhaling one fibre and you're dead"

Carole Hagedorn, a former secondary languages teacher who contracted the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in June 2008, said the claims were unacceptable. She told us: “It is indeed not the case of ‘one fibre and you’re dead’, but it is the case that only a brief exposure is necessary to cause damage – including mesothelioma – to some people.”.....Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers..said: “Teacher unions are not being ‘whipped into a frenzy’. We are not being alarmist. We are simply concerned about a government system that doesn’t work: there are no clear lines of responsibility for school management...The knowledge of where asbestos is located is poor, and there is frequently no training for the people in charge of managing it. The point is that no teacher should die of exposure at school, and for every teacher exposed, hundreds of children are exposed too.”

Comment The government advisor remarks were made to the Western Mail. Look at "Wales News" which is seven items down from this item for detailed comment and closely referenced comment on these remarks.

Hamilton Advertiser
10 Sep
Anxious parents assured: No asbestos removal during school hours
The Press
Wed 9 Sep
Asbestos dust found in classroom at Poppleton Ousebank Primary School, York. Specialist contractors have been called in to clean a York primary school after traces of asbestos dust were found in classrooms.

Comment This shows that if a school contains asbestos materials then fibres can be readily released, in this case causing widespread contamination with traces of asbestos dust being found in several rooms.. Despite this the spokeswoman has stated that the air tests were satisfactory. There was a covering of dust in the rooms and therefore one would have expected raised fibre levels with normal air sampling and analysis, and that is because realistic disturbance such as brushing is required to make the dust become airborne, the sampling then collects and measures all types of airborne fibres both asbestos and non-asbestos. Differentiation of asbestos fibres can then be made with the most accurate means using electronic microscopes, with details of the discrimination being recorded on the air test report. It would be interesting to see the results of these tests to see what kind of disturbance and analysis was carried out.

Telgraph and Argus Call for check in Bradford Schools
The Star S Yorkshire
5 Sept
School stays shut as asbestos found. The potentially deadly substance was found under the floorboards at Edlington Victoria Primary School.

Detailed comment at this link. This discovery in heating ducts appears to highlight the flaws in standard school asbestos surveys and raises question that should be asked about the condition of the discovered asbestos and the effectiveness of the encapsulation. It appears to have a general lesson for other schools as the problem of hidden asbestos in an unknown condition and with potentially inadequate encapsulation also potentially exists in many schools. Solutions used by some Councils to find hidden asbestos in the comment.

Richmond Twickenham Times
7 Sept
Teddington Primary School closed after asbestos discovery
Isle of Man Today
7 Sept
Primary school asbestos is taken away
Wales News HSE Steve Coldrick says:“If asbestos was really as dangerous as some people would have you believe then no one would have reached their 50s because we have all been to school. It isn’t a case of inhaling one fibre and you’re dead.”

Comment: The asbestos in schools group of multi-disciplined experts in asbestos and professionals in teaching and running schools have never, of course, claimed any such thing. Unfortunately Steve Coldrick's reported evidence for the statement that "The danger of asbestos in schools is exagerrated" lacks a sound factual base and appears to rest on demonising and exaggerating the position of those advocating proper reseach, evidence based practical action and pragmatic ways forward

Closely referenced comment is attached.

Contract Jounal Contractor required for House of Commons asbestos removal. The House of Commons is advertising for a framework of contractors to perform maintenance, including asbestos removal, on the landmark building.
The Press and Journal
17 Aug 2009
The opening of two multimillion-pound primary schools in Aberdeen is expected to be delayed by eight weeks after asbestos was found. Work on the new Manor Park Primary, at Middlefield, and the renovation of Seaton Primary, have run into problems after “significantly higher” amounts of asbestos was found than had been expected
Weston and Somerset Mercury School asbestos scare - council and consultants fined Stephen Covell, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said the consultancy 'failed completely' to address the potential risk posed by asbestos. Mr Covell added: "North Somerset Council was under the obligation as owner of the premises to assess the risk." He added that the unitary authority did not have an adequate process by which buildings were assessed before work was carried out.

Mr Covell said the consultancy failed completely to address the potential risk posed by asbestos.

Evening Leader - Flintshire
11 August

Nearly two thirds of Flintshire’s schools contain asbestos, it has been revealed. Of the county’s 86 schools, 58 contain the potentially-deadly substance which lies in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and dozens of other common materials. According to figures released to the Leader by the county council, thousands of children who attend each of the 12 high schools in Flintshire have been exposed to asbestos, as well as hundreds of children who go to 46 of the county’s 74 primary schools.

Telegraph and Argus
10 August
A firm is offering free asbestos awareness courses to head teachers. Barry Softley, managing director of the asbestos removal company, said: “I’ve been working in this industry for many years and I’m now experiencing colleagues and friends, 20 years on, who have developed asbestos-related cancers.

“From the onset I would like to help protect children against the harmful effects of asbestos and increase awareness of its use in schools by sharing my experience and knowledge. From a parents viewpoint I would like to ensure my children are being educated in a safe environment and the sad truth is that over 90 per cent of British schools still contain asbestos.”

Teachers TV Dozens of English schools have agreed to have their buildings tested for asbestos.

Video brief on the tests by MP.

Wales OnLine
27 July
More than 377,000 youngsters are exposed to the risk posed by floor tiles, ceiling tiles and dozens of other common materials every day.........."local authorities’ understanding of asbestos regulations and management of the risks appears to be “patchy at best”...............“Some of the authorities don’t seem to realise the difference between an asbestos register (the location of everything) and a management plan which, like a health and safety policy, sets out roles and responsibilities, how the risk is communicated to staff and when it is going to be audited and reviewed.”

“I have recently tabled a Statement of Opinion in the Welsh Assembly, calling on Assembly Members to support immediate action to increase the awareness of this problem amongst education staff, which has been met with cross-party support.”

The Independent
19 July
"...... checks will be used to spur Government into action on 'deadly legacy' for pupils and teachers.....MPs, leaders of the teaching unions, and families of teachers killed by asbestos-related diseases have arranged the tests, claiming ministers and local councils are not doing enough to identify – and safely remove – the substance........... the campaigners have persuaded consultants to carry out tests free in up to 100 schools this summer, after the Government refused to fund the project. They will use the results to convince the Government of the need for action"

Comment: A basic principle of risk management is assessing the scale of the problem and the risk. The Independent highlights how MPs, the teaching unions, the British Safety Council and others have called for an audit of the extent of asbestos and the standards of asbestos management in the nation’s schools, they have also asked that a risk assessment is carried out for the occupants, and yet for more than twenty five years successive Governments have refused. Because of this a joint project between the combined teaching unions and the asbestos consultants association has asked school authorities to volunteer their schools for an assessment of the standards of asbestos management. The assessment will be made by experienced asbestos consultants, and guidance will be given where necessary, with the names of the schools remaining anonymous.

Guardian
19 July
Asbestos threat underestimated say scientists
Ham and High
9 July
The toxic substance exists in 45 of Camden's 54 primary, secondary and special schools - just above 83 percent. "Most teachers are not totally aware of the problem and the biggest danger is that you cannot see it. Another problem is if you are exposed to asbestos, nothing happens for about 20 or 25 years." The Ham&High's revelations come days after the British Safety Council lambasted the government for not having a national register of asbestos in schools, and called on ministers to implement a programme for asbestos removal.
Daily Post North Wales
6 July
Teachers only found out a school hall was covered in asbestos when asked to hand out letters informing parents and pupils about the problem. The Health and Safety Executive has been monitoring Denbighshire's asbestos management and has provisionally discharged our improvement notice for asbestos management subject to a review of our evidence files.”

Comment: Although the asbestos will be removed during the school holidays one must ask just how long have staff and pupils being storing props and equipment under the stage and presumably disturbing the asbestos.

British Safety Council
3 July
Government Failing to Tackle Asbestos in Schools.
BBC News
3 July
British Safety Council: Call for 'urgent' asbestos audit'. Sixteen teachers die on average each year from asbestos-related disease and an urgent audit must be carried out, the British Safety Council says. Its chief executive, Brian Nimick, told a conference it was unacceptable that no risk assessment of the problem in schools had been carried out.
Basingstoke Gazette
25 June
Brighton Hill Community College, in Brighton Way – Basingstoke’s largest secondary school with about 1,300 pupils – has all three forms of asbestos present – crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile. Head teacher David Eyre told The Gazette he believes asbestos should be removed from all Hampshire schools. He said: "Having asbestos at the school makes life very difficult in terms of drilling holes into the walls and moving things around because it might be disturbed. These are schools full of children and I believe passionately that their health should be put before money and that all school buildings should be stripped of asbestos..."

Comment: Hampshire has a considerable number of SCOLA System Built schools. Notes on their asbestos and fire situation are attached.

Waltham Forest Guardian
19 June 2009
More than 60 schools in Redbridge have buildings which contain asbestos, the Guardian can reveal.......Ms Hagedorn, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma last summer, taught at three unnamed schools in the borough during a career spanning 34 years.

Lancashire Telegraph
18 June

Remove asbestos from East Lancashire Schools. National Union of Teachers national executive member Simon Jones, who represents East Lancashire, said: “The only safe policy is complete removal. "You can’t take chances with people’s lives, so whatever the cost, it has to be met. The Government has now conceded and accepted that.”

The list of buildings, revealed under a freedom of in formation investigation, shows that 55 out of 73 schools in Blackburn and Darwen contain asbestos.

NW Evening Mail
26 May

Annual Barrow Asbestos Related Disease Support Conference (BARDS). Speakers at the event were keen to convey the number of asbestos-related deaths will increase before they fall. The conference also called for government action to rid schools of asbestos The Conference was International with delegates from America and Australia

Sec Ed (speciailst education magazine)

21 May

"Double standards"

"Asbestos management in the Houses of Parliament: Training available for all staff. A dedicated team to monitor danger areas. Millions of pounds of detailed work.
Asbestos management in schools: Responsibility often left to one senior leader. A lack of training or clear guidance. Comprehensive audit of asbestos yet to take place.

Reports of a seminar in Westminster following a deputation from all the teaching unions to the PM. The PM agreed there was a problem with asbestos in schools and directed action.

BBC
20 May
The government is asked to provide £5m to support asbestos cancer research, with a further £5m coming from other sources...."Funding at present is woefully inadequate - it's among the worst resourced fields in cancer research," said John Edwards, consultant thoracic surgeon and chair of the British Mesothelioma Interest Group. ..... Teaching unions are also campaigning for asbestos to be removed from all schools. Health and Safety Executive figures show that 228 teachers died from asbestos-related diseases between 1991 and 2005.

Daily Mirror
18 May
Thousands of victims of asbestos-related diseases could die before they get compensation because official files have been deliberately destroyed. Documents seen by the Mirror prove that the Health and Safety Executive is STILL shredding vital papers about the killer dust.

Last night Carole Hagedorn, 58, a teacher diagnosed with mesothelioma last year, said: "I was absolutely horrified and very disappointed that the records have been destroyed.'' She had been trying to get the relevant files on schools where she had worked more than 13 years ago when she thinks she came into contact with asbestos dust.

Comment: As mesothelioma has a long latency before symptoms develop the files are destroyed before mesothelioma becomes apparent. This means it is almost impossible for a teacher or pupil to identify whether they were in contact with asbestos in their school. It means that coroners often have no evidence of exposure in schools when deciding on cause of death. It removes statistical evidence on which to base estimates of deaths in later life from school exposure and assess the effectiveness of preventive action. It makes it much more difficult for victims to get compensation.

Wales Online Time to tackle the 'ticking timebomb' of asbestos in Wales' school buildings
This is Somerset
14 May
A small building company which accidentally caused an asbestos scare in a village school leading to a £190,000 clean-up operation has been fined £1,100. The judge said "I consider the responsibility for the danger has been passed down to the defendant.". The HSE said "People in charge of buildings also need to know if they contain asbestos ...."
Mirror
14 May

Asbestos timebomb - Mirror campaign update by Mark Ellis. At a private meeting at No.10 the PM met asbestos campaigners, the leaders of the biggest teaching unions and worried MPs amid rising concern about asbestos-related deaths. ........................ And Schools minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry will meet the delegation again within weeks to thrash out an agenda for tackling the problem.Campaigners say it is a major breakthrough after repeated requests for top level meetings on asbestos in the past were turned down and praised the Mirror for raising awareness of the problem.

Daily Mirror
12 May
Carole, a teacher who has mesothelioma - a cancer linked to asbestos exposure - will tell an all-party group of MPs that they must think of "the lives of thousands of others that will get this illness from school as long as Parliament fails to act". She spoke to the all party group shortly after a group of Teachers Unions had a meeting with the Prime Minister.
HSE
8 May
The prosecution relates to a period of refurbishment work which took place between 16 July and 13 August 2007 at Westonzoyland Primary School in Somerset, in which asbestos contamination occurred when firebreaks were removed incorrectly by unlicensed building contractors.

International Ban Abestos secretariat press release

6 May

On 6 May the Prime Minister met asbestos campaigners at a private meeting in the House of Commons. On the agenda were a series of issues including: the fatal legacy left by asbestos manufacturing in Britain, the consequences of low level exposures to asbestos, the asbestos contamination of schools and the urgent need for a coordinated national research strategy for medical treatment and cures for asbestos-related diseases.

Having acknowledged the threat posed by low level exposures to asbestos, the Prime Minister confirmed that further discussion on asbestos in schools will take place at a Westminster meeting on May 13. Detailed report at this link

Monmouthshire Beacon

1 May 2009

Asbestos shock at Raglan Primary School. A building “not fit for its purpose” is how one parent this week described Raglan Primary School after receiving a copy of a survey carried out by Monmouthshire County Council..... The survey revealed a catalogue of faults in both the infant and junior schools, including the discovery of asbestos under the flooring.Mrs Vaughan said she was horrified to read in the report that asbestos had been disovered in the cracked vinyl floor tiles in classes in both schools.

Eastern Daily Press 24

28 April 2009

Teletext Scotland

 

Norfolk School at the centre of asbestos scare. "During a routine inspection, asbestos was found in a fractured ceiling tile in one of the sixth-form common rooms. The room has been sealed off as a precautionary measure due to the inspector identifying a small area of asbestos-containing material being disturbed." The incident happened within days of teachers, union leaders and politicians calling for asbestos to be removed from Norfolk's classrooms, as an EDP investigation showed 390 of Norfolk's 438 schools had asbestos on their premises.

Comment: Ceiling tiles are a known risk. They are specifically covered in HSE guidance. It is known that this ceiling tile contained asbestos and it is likely that it is asbestos insulating board, which normally contains brown asbestos, amosite, and must be handled with great care so as not to release the fibres. Also asbestos fibres and debris can rest on the top surface of the tile so that when it is disturbed the fibres filter down through the smallest crack or gap. Asbestos fibres can readily pass wherever air can pass..

It is known that hitting an AIB panel can release significant levels of asbestos fibres, with tests giving levels more than forty times greater than that at which the room can be legally occupied. In this case the ceiling tile was fractured so it must be assumed that considerable force was used. This would inevitably have released large quantities of asbestos fibres that would have filtered down into the room below. As the material is friable it also releases asbestos debris when it is broken, which, if crushed underfoot, releases even more asbestos fibres.

It would be interesting to know the following

  • Why the perceived risk was considered so low that it did not justify carrying out air tests.
  • What tests and test conditions identified the fibre release as “minor” and the levels of exposure of the occupants as “exceedingly low, almost nil.
  • If that is the case why it is considered necessary to seal the room and carry out an environmental clean of the area, which is a disruptive and most expensive exercise.

There is a natural temptation for authorities to be very reassuring after an incident when the reassurances cannot always be justified The problem with this is that future cases of damaged ceiling tiles may be assumed by school staff to be a minor problem – not worth reporting – when HSE guidance is that teachers, other staff and pupils should be instructed to report such damage immediately so that it can be repaired and any contamination dealt with. This does not appear to have happened. One wonders how long it was before the damaged tile was spotted as the damage was apparently only reported and dealt with following an inspection. On the face of it this seems a failure in asbestos management.

From the description of the damage and the reassurances given, pupils and teachers should not be overly concerned about this incident as it appears to be an isolated incident with asbestos fibre release over a short period of time. But the fact is that however good asbestos management might be, where there are children there always is the potential that an accident, vandalism or boisterous behaviour will damage asbestos and release the fibres.

It does not help children's safety to gloss over such incidents . It tends to make staff, caretakers and pupils in every school believe that the risk of asbestos fibre release from fractured tiles does not matter, releases "almost nil" fibres and need not be reported urgently.

Sec Ed
(Speciailst education magazine)

28 April 2009

Lead story after the NASUWT conference gave a standing ovation to a teacher dying of mesothelioma.

'Carole Hagedorn is dying. Last year, after 34 years as a teacher, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma.' She says "The latency period for the cancer can be anything between 10 and 50 years , so even if initial exposure will frequently happen when at school, the current occupation is what gets recorder on the death certificate. Everyone goes to school and children are thought to be more susceptible to the effects of asbestos exposure than adults. The government could wipe out a huge proportion of this cancer if it set about removing the material from schools."

This is South Wales
19 April 2009

CLASSROOMS at a Gorseinon school may have to be closed for up to two weeks after workers found asbestos. .An annexe of Penyrheol Comprehensive School, which contains 16 classrooms, has been shut after asbestos was found. The asbestos was discovered over the Easter break when new windows were being installed.

Comment: The Council say that asbestos had not been disturbed and so is "not a health risk", but windows vibrating, slamming and opening are known to disturb hidden asbestos as does water damage. It is also very surprising that the presence of asbestos around the windows came as a surprise. It suggests that the management of hidden asbestos might be less thorough than required to prevent fibre release.

It is surprising that Swansea Council say this does not pose a health risk when HSE make it clear that asbestos is a health risk that is being managed - and the management of potentially deteriorating hidden asbestos seems to have failed on this occassion - possibly over a long period of time.

Times Educational Supplement
17 April 2009

Cases against head teachers for poor asbestos management likely to increase. Report on NASUWT conference

Comment: The TES article highlights the risk of prosecution of headteachers. This is a very valid concern as increasingly they and the governors have responsibility for ensuring that the asbestos in the schools is safely managed, and yet many have not been adequately trained and do not even have sufficient awareness of the dangers of asbestos to give it the priority it deserves.  Presently each school has to carry out about 136 risk assessments from the dangers of slips, trips and falls, to car parking, legionella and a whole plethora of other risks among which asbestos is but one.  If a headteacher or chairman of the governors is not even aware of the dangers of asbestos then it might be given no more priority than the problem of pot holes in the playground, and yet the risks are far greater and the potential for prosecution if something goes wrong is increasingly likely. It is essential that all headteachers and governors are given training so that they are fully aware of the dangers of asbestos and whether their school is managing it effectively.

Eastern Daily Press

Norwich Evening News
18 April 2009

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said local authorities should be doing more to deal with problem (of asbestos in most Norfolk schools) - after a Freedom of Information request by the EDP revealed asbestos was present in 390 of Norfolk's 438 schools.

Mr Bacon said, in the Norwich Evening News : “The fact is local authorities are not as prepared to deal with this as they should be. There should be much greater information available to the public. He said he believed it was possible to manage asbestos until schools were rebuilt but there were too few people able to deal with the job safely in the schools.“It is possible to manage the problem of asbestos in school and a lot of schools are being rebuilt,” he said. “We have to look at the issue of building schools for the future.”

Oldham Chronicle Asbestos still a threat in Oldham Schools: Some schools and colleges are not taking health and safety issues like this seriously and many local authorities are failing to comply with their statutory responsibilities.

“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and a long-term strategy for the complete removal of asbestos from all buildings used for educational purposes must be the goal.”

Times On Line
Evening Standard
Guardian


16 March 09

Report of NASUWT Conference "Children face asbestos Time Bomb"

"Teachers .... said many of their schools had been told it was safer not to remove asbestos, as it lay undisturbed. But they said this was dangerous and foolhardy as the substance could be released by flooding, accidental damage or vandalism. One teacher said she found pupils kicking around blocks of asbestos they had discovered in a cupboard, and another said members of staff had been asked to sweep up asbestos debris"

"Children's lives are at risk and an unknown number will die from cancer after being exposed to asbestos in schools, a terminally ill London teacher warned today. Carole Hagedorn described how her mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos in school buildings, left her feeling “like some sort of collateral damage in the education game”"

"Thirty or 40 years on, these buildings are in decay. They are leaking and crumbling, but we, the teachers and our children, carry on working in them – day in, day out."

BBC Radio Scotland
9am 6 April 09

An investigation into asbestos in schools. Listen to it here

Comment: detailed and balanced programme - it illustrated the common problem in all UK schools. We have submitted a response to the blog about asbestos mananagement and detecting breaches in asbestos defences in schools on a daily basis.

This is Kent

Raises the issue of management, and deteriorating asbestos due to normal school activity. .

Comment: The Schools Minister has said that asbestos will not necessarily be removed when schools are refurbished in the Building Schools for the future campaign. New builds, as stated in the article, will get rid of asbestos, but the many schools being refurbished may well not.

Express and Star
2 April

"Asbestos hit school closure to continue" ....... "workers disturbed asbestos insulation board fibres while removing a book cupboard in the nursery where children were present. It happened the day before half-term but parents were not told until a week later."
EPolitix A factual and researched article covering the problem of Asbestos in Schools from Voice (The Union for Education Professionals).
Sunday Express
29 March

Personal story of a teacher with mesothelioma followed by:


Article: "Why is asbestos still being allowed to kill teachers and threaten thousands of pupils?"
Leader: "Safe schools can save nation"

Sec Ed (Speciaiist secondary Education Magazine

Western Mail
27 March

Sec Eds report on asbestos seminar in the Welsh Assembly: "in about two-thirds of mesothelioma we cannot identify where the exposure to asbestos occurred. What we do know is that most of those people will have attended school. I think there is a significant risk of mesothelioma in schools containing asbestos" (Page 6 on this link)

Report on Assembly of Wales conference on asbestos: Mesothelioma rates were “far higher than should be expected” among teachers. “And if the teachers are showing significantly high on the statistics, then what about the children?”

Radio 4

An issue raised in this Radio 4 report is the failure of Government reports, statistics and procedures (including a very recent one) to address the following issue:

If teachers, a profession where there should be no asbestos exposure, are dying from asbestos exposure, what is happening to children - who are recognised as being particularly vulnerable to asbestos?

The comment expands on this issue and there is a downloadable podcast of the Radio 4 report

Times Educational Supplement
27 March 09

The widow of a senior teacher who died after exposure to asbestos in school science labs has been awarded £290,000 compensation. The former chemistry teacher died from mesothelioma in September 2007

Clinica
(A world medical technology journal)
25 March

Westminster safety disagreement highlights risk in schools - Clinica Calls for Public Inquiry into Asbestos Safety

"Some high-profile examples of management failures have reached the media, but the risk of any such instance in schools, in particular, cannot be entertained. Yet there is growing evidence............ that it is actually happening."

Politics UK
26 March 09

Paul Rowen MP - I was deputy head of a secondary school. Nobody gave me any training advice, told me what I should or should not do, Yet when things happen teachers are the people responsible Parliamentary debate on asbestos in schools

Daily Mirror All-party MPs join our asbestos timebomb campaign

VOICE - the Union
24 March

Article on asbestos in schools

Express and Star

23 March 2009

There is still no date for a Staffordshire school to re-open after it was closed following the release of dangerous asbestos fibres into a nursery room.

Comment: Workmen damaged Asbestos Insulating board when they removed a cupboard from a Nursery classroom wall while the children were present.  It took the council a week to inform the parents. The children’s coats. books furniture and equipment are being stripped from the classroom. HSE say that the exposure “has led to a limited risk to the children.”

This is Scunthorpe
23 Mar 09

145 North Lincs buildings contain asbestos. NUT executive Ken Rustidge said: "It's very worrying indeed".
This is Gloucestershire
23 Mar 09
Most of county's schools contain asbestos
This is Bristol
23 Mar 09
HSE are prosecuting North Somerset County council over a failure in asbestos management that released asbestos fibres and contaminated the school.
Mirror North Tyneside council have been fined £17,000 for a failure in asbestos management that exposed a school caretaker to asbestos fibres. (10 Mar 09)

Daily Mirror

21 March 09

Asbestos gave me cancer at 13 years old. "We can't think of a time where I could have come into close contact with asbestos" . "The rate (of mesothelioma) for UK sufferers with no known exposure is four times the world average".

If you read the link you might also read the first comment on the Mirror article which discusses asbestos exposure in schools and how to identify if one has been exposed to asbestos in a school.

Sunday Mail
15 Mar

Parents are battling plans to send children to an asbestos-ridden school. Pupils at St Gilbert's Primary - which is in good condition - will move to crumbling St Philomena's in Blackhill, Glasgow.

Sec Ed (Specialist Secondary Education Magazine)
12 Mar 09

A two page article (pages 8 and 9) of the magazine. Michael Lees gives the reasons the Government policy towards asbestos in schools has failed to protect the occupants.

Littlehampton Today
Midhurst and Petworth
West Sussex County Times
Hastings Observer
Crawley Observer
Mid Sussex Times

11 Mar

"Asbestos in Mid Sussex Schools is no danger to children or adults" West Sussex County Council

Comment: One must question how West Sussex County Council’s are so confident that the asbestos in their schools is no danger to children or adults, for if any asbestos material is present there is always the potential that the fibres could be released, and if inhaled they present a risk.  In comparison to West Sussex CC the HSE are more cautious to qualify their statements, for in a recent interview for BBC Inside Out when they were informed of a failure of asbestos management in a school a senior HSE official stated “No I didn’t say that asbestos was safe. I said that it was for the duty holder to make sure it didn’t represent a risk to health. You are calling it a problem. I don’t think that it is a problem. I think that it is a health risk that is being managed.”

271 of the 286 schools in West Sussex contain asbestos, 78 of which are a type of System built school called SCOLA which are of a type that are known to contain significant quantities of asbestos including asbestos insulating board.  It has been known for more than twenty years that in schools of a similar construction,  if the walls and columns are hit, or even doors are slammed, then significant levels of amosite fibres can be released into the rooms.

Unless West Sussex are totally confident that there will never be a failure in asbestos management in any of their schools then they cannot justify their statement that asbestos is no danger. In addition unless they have carried out comprehensive air sampling with realistic disturbance in all their schools they will have no real idea if the hidden asbestos is releasing asbestos fibres into the rooms.

Mirror
10 March

Article 1: 90% of Manchester schools contain asbestos ... .. similar picture likely across UK. Rochdale MP seeking Parliamentary debate. The NUT's Christine Blower said: "An employer must ensure buildings are safe and yet this appalling situation continues."

Article 2: Pupil is suing over asbestos exposure in school

Mid Sussex Times
4 March

Three quarters of the schools in Crawley contain asbestos

Another teacher dies

Halesowen News
9 March 2009

Sadly another teacher has died of mesothelioma.

Wendy Stevens died on October 31st 2008.  Mrs Stevens had worked at Bromsgrove College, a System built complex, where major construction work had been carried out during term time. Report on Wendy Steven's death.

The Press and Journal

BBC News

Highland News

4, 5 March 2009

Parents fearful of health risks at school after asbestos scare - 6 March
School asbestos find causes chaos 5 March
The BBC report that the clean-up at Nairn academy will take until Easter. -5 March
Nairn Academy pupils sent home after asbestos dust scare also _ 4 March: Asbestos found in flakes of debris on classroom floor

Comment: The Nairn academy was opened in 1976 and within weeks the flat roof was leaking. A year ago water was running down the walls into the classrooms with staff and parents expressing fears about asbestos contamination. The year before that warnings had been given that drawing pins must not be inserted in the walls because of the presence of chrysotile in the wall coverings.  As asbestos problems were known about in the school one must question why the recent work on installing the solar panels was not carried out under more stringent control measures.  Earlier details are at the following links:

http://www.inverness-courier.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/8894/Nairn_school_closed_amid_asbestos_fears.html
http://www.highland-news.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/3174/Leaky_roof_adds_to_academy_pressure.html
http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourcouncil/news/newsreleases/2009/March/2009-03-03-01.htm
http://www.highland-news.co.uk/news/printpage.php/aid/3374/New_call_to_rid_schools_of__killer_.html

ic Walsall
5 March
Following an asbestos incident which contaminated the school, it remained open for the following ten days. The County Council did not release information about the incident because  “The information she had received had been labelled confidential, meaning she couldn’t communicate it.”
Daily Record

Edinburgh city council have been fined for breaching the asbestos regulations, which resulted in unlicensed contractors littering a school in unsafe debris.27 Feb 2009

Daily Mirror campaign

The Mirror is running a series of articles. They want, amongst other things, a public register of all asbestos surveys. If anyone has any comment or stories of asbestos incidents in schools please contact the Mirror atasbestos@mirror.co.uk  or join their blog at http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/asbestos-campaign/  

Health and Safety Professional

Contractors fined for refurbishment work carried out in a junior school in Manchester that released asbestos fibres when asbestos ceiling tiles were removed without any precautions being taken. This was despite the fact that the contractors were given the asbestos register.

This is Lichfield,
Times Educational Supplement

Primary School children exposed to asbestos during building work
A Staffordshire primary school has been closed because building work disturbed asbestos insulation. Despite the contamination the school remained occupied for the following 10 days, although it has now been closed
The Press and Jounal Asbestos found in private school near Johnshaven
BBC

Builders disturb asbestos at primary school in Staffordshire

The Teachers' Union Voice Voice calls for a nationwide survey of asbestos in schools as a basis for assessing the risk to children and teachers.
This is Lancashire February 09

Heating fails in school, pipes lagged with asbestos

Comment: On 2 Feb 09 Lancashire Council said “there is nothing to worry about so long as it (asbestos) remains intact”. A week later in a school water is leaking out of pipes with asbestos lagging. Water damages friable asbestos and the fibres are dispersed, to precipitate out when the water dries. Floor ducting does not keep in asbestos fibres for “ wherever air can pass then asbestos fibres can just as readily.”

Sec Ed 12 Feb 09 Sec Ed. In Response letter identifies flaws in PfS plans for asbestos during school rebuilding
The Guardian 12 Feb 09 http://www.guardian.co.uk
Sec Ed 12 Feb 09 seminar page 11 Seminar on asbestos in schools March 2009
Sec Ed 12 Feb 09 page 2 Crumbling Scottish Schools
The magazine Secondary Education (Sec Ed) explains the issue of asbestos in schools http://www.sec-ed.co.uk

Lib Dems W&P Shadow Minister calls for an audit of all asbestos in schools.

http://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk
New Statesman Cover, Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

Health and Safety Team (Educational) newsletter - 20
19 Jan 09

Details of how to do a risk assesment in a school with an example on page 4 of the newsletter of North Tyneside Council were fined after school caretaker in a primary school was exposed to asbestos.
Lanark Gazette 8 Jan 09

Asbestos under the stage of a primary school. An environmental clean has taken place with all the equipment destroyed.

The Hindu
India's national Paper Feb 09
No abestos roofing for schools. "It is imaginable how much health risk a schoolboy is exposed to if he attends class under an asbestos roof for seven hours a day during his 12-year schooling....the impact of exposure to asbestos fibres took up to 20 years to manifest and that very often source of exposure went unnoticed". .
Sunday Express letter Asbestos Disease Society Australia
Sunday Express letter Michael Lees response to Bridle article
Sunday Mercury Asbestos in Midlands school
Sky News Asbestos in Australian schools
Sec Ed (Secondary Education UK Magazine) Teachers Death Rates
Sec Ed (Secondary Education UK Magazine) Presssure to clear asbestos
Health and Safety Professional (professional magazine) School caretaker exposed to asbestos
Reinsurance (professional magazine) Asbestos the elephant in the room
Radio Kent Dom's Show following report of asbestos in many Kent schools Reports interview with bereaved family
Peterborough Today Norwood School
Rochdale On Line Rochdale leading in asbestos removal
Midlothian Today Old Dalkeith High School demolition
News Wales Asbestos closes Newport School
Rochdale Observer Sir Cyril Smith involvement with asbestos
Local Guardian - Richmond Asbestos closes Mortlake School
Times OnLine Asbestos and school building programme
Doncaster Free Press Eddington School Fire
Cyprus Action Network Asbestos problems in Cyprus
BBC CBBC Newsround Asbestos in Schools
BBC Press Office Asbestos in 90% of South East Schools
Rhondda Cynon Taf Asbestos Survey closes 8 Buildings
Liverpool Echo Asbestos hits school works
Northern Scot Safety Fears after asbestos find
Morpeth Herald Alert for Northumberland Workers
Conscious Solutions (Law firms website intranet) Background and school situation
Rochdale Schools 14 January 2009 9 out of 10 schools asbestos ridden
This is London - Professor Peto Chair Cancer Research UK Historically incomprehensible
Bureau Veritas Bulletin January 2009 Report asbestos management does not work in practise
Liverpool Daily Post- Bootle -Thomas Gray Primary School Builders find more asbestos than expected
Nottinghampshire County Council
21 nov 2008
This paper sets out the difficulties faced by Nottinghamshire in planning for its BSF Programme due to the high incidence of the CLASP type building stock in use across the secondary school estate. The CLASP buildings are widely considered to be beyond their useful life regardless of their respective ‘mark’ or era. The paper provides compelling evidence that to bring the existing CLASP stock up to required standards e.g. in relation to meeting current building regulations and acoustic standards etc., the cost of doing so is approximately 94% of new build costs.
Derby City Council
24 May 2007
There is asbestos insulation in the roof void at Nightingale Junior school which requires removal during the summer holiday period as a matter of urgency. Feasibility work has been ongoing for this project, however, significant unforeseen complications have arisen which will require addressing to allow the work to happen. In order to remove the asbestos safely and efficiently, large parts of the heating and electrical system will require replacement. The existing lath and plaster ceilings will also need to be removed and replaced. Some roof repairs are required, which cannot be carried out until the asbestos has been removed.
Institute for Environment and Health 1997 This report reviews the sources and uses of both natural (asbestos) and man made inorganic fibruous materials , the levels of exposure to these fibres in the non-workplace environment and the health effects of such exposures.
This is a limited selection. Major items like BBC and ITV investigations are on the main site as are items like authoritative letters to papers like the Times. If you are interested in a particular article or incident please contact us. we may have information and press coverage