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Asbestos in Schools

Are children insured against exposure to asbestos in Academies?

A series of Parliamentary questions have been asked to clarify the position on whether or not pupils and non-employees are covered by asbestos exposure risk insurance in Academies. A previous Parliamentary answer had confirmed that in general they are not. It stated “...There is a general asbestos exclusion for public liability insurance.”

That posed the question how any future claim would be met if a former pupil develops mesothelioma. When local authorities cannot obtain public liability insurance for asbestos exposure risks they self insure, however most Academies do not have the resources to self insure. The Parliamentary question therefore asked whether the Academy Trustees would be personally liable. The Minister’s written answer confirms that as a corporate body the Academy Trust is liable. However the Minister appears to consider that the governors’ liability insurance is a catch all insurance and will therefore meet any future mesothelioma claims from former pupils or non-employees.

The Minister’s answer makes a questionable assumption. There has to be clarity now about how any future mesothelioma claims will be met from former Academy pupils, as it will be too late in ten or twenty years time when potentially the first claims are made to discover that they cannot be met.

22 May 2012 - Hansard

Schools: Asbestos

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Education whether an academy trust would be personally liable for an asbestos exposure claim against the academy. [108132]

Mr Gibb [holding answer 21 May 2012]:An academy trust is a corporate body so its members should not be held personally liable provided they act reasonably and in good faith. An academy trust acts as a single entity with an identity separate from that of its members. Responsibility for actions and decisions, therefore, lies with the whole academy trust rather than its individual members.

Academy trusts are required to have governor liability insurance with a minimum cover of several million pounds. This insurance covers the collective liability of the academy trust acting in good faith.