The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a review of its policy on asbestos management in schools and is asking for “opinions and ideas”.
It wants to hear from those involved in the day-to-day management of asbestos in schools about how effective current guidance is, how asbestos is being managed, what the barriers are to effective management, and how it can better support schools.
The DfE pledged to review its policy in light of findings from the Committee on Carcinogenicity (CoC) last year showing that children are more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than adults.
Around 75 per cent of UK state schools contain asbestos and more than 140 school teachers have died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in the past 10 years.
It was also claimed at an Education Select Committee hearing last year that up to 300 people a year could be dying of mesothelioma as adults after being exposed to asbestos as children at school.
Campaigners have been calling for a full audit of the schools estate to establish the condition of asbestos-containing materials. They also want to see a programme to remove completely all asbestos.
However, current government policy, based on Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice, is that schools should identify, protect and manage asbestos-containing materials, rather than remove them.
It is thought that the cost alone of removing all asbestos from schools prevents the government from taking action.
Speaking at the time of the CoC’s finding last year, chair of the Asbestos in Schools campaign group Annette Brooke MP, said: “The Department for Education must publish a strategic plan involving an audit of school buildings and an assessment of the risks. Over a period of time the plan must aim for the removal of the most dangerous asbestos materials.”
The consultation documents are available online and the deadline for responses is 11:45pm on March 31. Visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/asbestos-management-in-schools-dfe-policy-review