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Asbestos in Schools

Letter from Brent Council published as part of PCC resolution makes school safety claims that appear unjustified

Brent Council have had a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission upheld. The complaint was over an article in the Kilburn Times that stated “‘half of parents’ had taken their children out of Brentfield Primary School” following the discovery of asbestos during refurbishment work. As part of the PCC resolution a letter from Brent council was published stating that “I feel it was irresponsible of your newspaper not to report the fact that material containing asbestos had been removed from Brentfield Primary School by 9 September... Furthermore, pupils could not have come into contact with the material, which was sealed under a window sill and had not been disturbed previously..... the council and the school have done everything necessary to assure their children's safety.”

Comment:. Council minutes from October 2011 record that “There had been severe delays to the delivery of the Brentfield Primary school expansion project due to the discovery of asbestos.” The asbestos was only discovered during the refurbishment of the school and therefore one must question why it had not been discovered before. Because the presence of this asbestos was not known, neither the school nor the council had managed it in the many years since the school was first built.

Tests in other schools show that when a door is slammed or walls and columns hit then hidden asbestos can release significant levels of asbestos fibres. This was highlighted in an ITN report on Hay Lane school in Brent. In that case Brent council had enforcement action taken against them for failing to follow critical guidance to prevent the release of asbestos fibres into classrooms. As this asbestos in Brentfield Primary had not been managed over the course of many years, it is difficult to understand how the council can justify their statement that the asbestos under the window sill had not been disturbed previously.

Hay Lane school is now being demolished and it is most relevant that more asbestos has also been discovered that had not been previously identified. Over the course of many years asbestos in both Hay Lane and Brentfield schools had not been identified. Given this track record Brent Council's statement that “the council and the school have done everything necessary to assure their children's safety.” appears unjustified.