Asbestos in schools: MPs ‘seriously concerned’ about lack of information
Almost a quarter of schools have still not told the Government how much asbestos is in their school buildings, according to a new report.
The report by the influential public accounts (PAC) parliamentary select committee reveals that only 77% of schools have responded to a Department for Education (DfE) survey, despite it being extended several times.
According to the report, 23% of schools have yet to respond and the committee remains “seriously concerned” about the “lack of information and assurance about asbestos in school buildings”.
It also calls on the Government to “name and shame” any schools that miss next month’s deadline.
The DfE launched its ‘asbestos management survey’ in March 2018, after the group of MPs first raised concerns about the lack of data in 2017.
Originally, the ministry asked schools to respond by 31 May 2018 and then extended the deadline to July 2018.
The survey was then re-opened in November and schools have until 15 February to complete it.
“Asbestos in schools can pose a significant threat to the health of pupils, staff and visitors. Where the risks are not being managed correctly, Government must be prepared to step in,” said committee chair, Meg Hillier.
“It is not acceptable for schools to continue ignoring requests for details of asbestos in their buildings. The DfE must name and shame schools that fail to meet its February deadline.
“Government needs to be clear how asbestos removal will be funded as it is not possible for schools to fund this from their existing budgets,” added Ms Hillier.
The chair of the Asbestos in Schools Group, Emma Hardy commented: “Nearly 90% of our schools still contain asbestos – and this is putting pupils and staff at risk of developing fatal illnesses in later life. The PAC has rightly criticised Government’s inadequate approach to asbestos management.
“What is needed is a Government funded phased removal of all asbestos in schools, starting with the most dangerous first. This is the only way to ensure the safety of school staff and most importantly pupils. As the Chair of the Asbestos in Schools group, I will be pressing the Government to commit the necessary funding for this’.”
A spokesperson for the DfE said: “The majority of academies are delivering a great education and – as recognised by the PAC – we are taking robust action in the small minority of cases where they are not meeting the high standards expected.”
This article is by Jamie Hailstone from the Safety & Health Practitioner website