In February 2012 the All Party Parliamentary Group and Occupational Health & Safety reported on the widespread presence of asbestos in school buildings estimating then that 75% of state schools likely contained asbestos.  They also reported that between November 2010 and 2011 they had surveyed the asbestos risk management plans of 164 schools, 28 of whom were unable to produce any such plan at all.

The report found numerous common failings in schools containing asbestos including inadequate management plans, inadequate labelling and demarcation of asbestos, poor standards of training and promotion of asbestos awareness in school staff in an inadequate surveying of premises.   Increased safety measures were called for and a strategy to remove asbestos from schools was endorsed as an ongoing policy.   Six recommendations were published at the conclusion of the report to assist in safeguarding schools from asbestos risks and future claims.

In 2017 the Department of Education published a further report relating to schools with asbestos on their premises entitled “Managing Asbestos in your School”.   In 2018 the Department of Education conducted a survey inviting schools to detail the checks, inspections and surveys and on-site procedures they had to deal with and safeguard asbestos on their sites.  This started in March 2018 and concluded in July 2018 with an extension for replies to be given to February 2019 due to the poor response.  That prompted a BBC article which indicated that some 23% of schools had failed to respond to the enquiry altogether.  Crucially out of the Department for Education survey those who did reply (some 2952) 2570 confirmed that they believed asbestos was present in at least one building on their premises.   That is 87%.   A total of 676 schools failed to demonstrate any compliance or proper response and were reported to Health & Safety for investigation.  

A petition was placed before Parliament to push for a phased removal programme of all asbestos from schools by 2028.   

On 10th March 2020 just before lockdown the National Education Union announced the Joint Union Asbestos Committee had issued a statement of intent to further lobby the Government to spotlight this issue.

Asbestos in Schools

In short, despite all this publicity and the long-standing awareness of the issue of asbestos in schools, not a lot has been done to alleviate the situation.  A lack of funding and widespread underestimation of the scale of the problem within the Education sector seems to remain with no further comment yet from the HSE or the Department of Education following the referral of non-compliant schools.    It is plain that sustained pressure from working within the sector continued right up to the Covid pandemic.    Further developments are expected, and it will be very interesting to see how matters unfold.   

TBI’s asbestos expert lawyer Mark Ellis believes that the real problem is not going to go away and has not yet been dealt with properly. He refers to it as a potential ticking timebomb.

Just this month the Sunday Times has launched a campaign calling on the government to take action following the diagnosis of a 29-year-old PE Teacher with mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is the deadliest consequence of exposure to asbestos.  It is a cancer of the mesothelium, a membrane on the outside of the lungs, heart, intestines, and abdomen.  There is no cure and 60% of people diagnosed with it will die within a year. 

Asbestos in Schools

How can we help?

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, pleural thickening, or lung cancer, it may be possible to pursue a compensation asbestos claim.

Contact our expert team on 01429 225200 for more information. 

Call: 01429 225200