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Asbestos in Schools

DfE Review of Asbestos Policy for Schools - AiS Reiteration of Recommendations

As you are finalising the report on DfE’s review of asbestos policy for schools I would like to reiterate the Asbestos in Schools Group’s main recommendations and highlight what outcome we wish to see from the review.

  • There needs to be a policy of openness where people are told the truth. The facts cannot be known by a few and kept from the majority.
  • There needs to be a public acknowledgement that there is a serious problem and that teachers, support staff and former pupils are at risk from asbestos exposure at school.
  • The greater vulnerability of children to asbestos exposure has to underlie all asbestos policies for schools.
  • There needs to be a commitment to long term strategic policies that over time will reduce and finally eradicate the problem.
  • The Asbestos in Schools Group has never asked for the wholesale removal of all asbestos. Instead we want those schools with the most dangerous asbestos identified and that asbestos progressively removed. This is particularly the case with AIB in places vulnerable to damage from children. We accept that it is a long term process but it has to begin otherwise the problem will continue indefinitely and children and staff will remain at risk.
  • To achieve that objective the scale of the problem has to be determined and those schools most at risk identified. Priorities can then be set and sound financial forecasts made.
  • Asbestos has been excluded from the Property Data Survey Programme, therefore a means needs to be found to centrally collate the available data on the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools. It has to be in a format that can be readily updated and will provide both a national summary and, where necessary, a more detailed analysis. DfE’s Tribal system is the ideal platform for providing this.
  • Governors, headteachers, teachers and support staff have to be trained. The level of training will depend on their role and should meet specified standards. The training should be mandatory.
  • If schools are expected to manage their asbestos then there has to be a system to ensure that they are achieving the required standard. Proactive inspections of the standards of asbestos management in schools should be reintroduced.
  • A number of Government Departments have responsibility for the safety of children and staff in schools from asbestos. DfE should take a strong lead in coordinating the various Departments. The difference of opinion over who has overall responsibility for asbestos in Welsh schools should be rapidly resolved. 
  • The risk to staff and pupils from asbestos occurs when asbestos materials are disturbed and they inhale airborne fibres. Therefore a trial should be carried out to perfect a system of air sampling in schools.
  • Workplace fibre levels should not be applied to the occupants of schools as they contain children. An environmental level should therefore be set and applied to schools.

Michael Lees
11th November 2014