Call for official asbestos database as Wales begins review of all school buildings


Teaching unions and cancer charities are urging the Welsh government to create a database recording asbestos in school buildings.

Teaching unions and cancer charities are urging the Welsh government to create a database recording asbestos in school buildings.

The new campaign comes as councils across the country begin work to review their management of asbestos.

Wales’s education minister Leighton Andrews has ordered the review which falls short of the national audit which campaigners want.

However, he says he will assess the situation when he has received the local authorities’ responses.

The issue was pushed high up the political agenda after 900 pupils were moved out of Cwmcarn High School in Caerphilly, after fears about asbestos. An investigation is now underway.

Now, assembly members, legal experts and campaigners have come together to support the new Parents’ Right to Know campaign, which has been launched by Asbestos in Schools Wales. It has political support and is backed by teaching unions and the Tenovus cancer charity.

The campaign is calling for an asbestos database which parents would be able to access online, to check whether asbestos is present in any school and whether a management plan is in place.

Monmouthshire County Council has become the first local authority in Wales to commit to openly providing its data on asbestos in schools to the public.

Monmouth AM, Nick Ramsay, is due to chair a new All-Party Group on asbestos which will examine the feasibility of establishing a central database.

“The danger that asbestos represents to children and teachers alike should no longer be put to one side, and we will be strongly encouraging local authorities to voluntarily share their data around asbestos in schools,” he stated.

Cenric Clement-Evans, asbestos expert and campaigning lawyer from NewLaw, said: “Those working in or attending schools are at risk of developing the fatal cancer mesothelioma in the future if asbestos, which was widely used in school buildings between the 1940s and 1980s, is inadvertently disturbed.

“The example of Cwmcarn High School is not an isolated one, as we believe that around 75 per cent of Welsh schools may contain asbestos. 

“The problem is that while individual schools should have their own asbestos register, it is not clear how many schools are affected in total and the extent of the presence of asbestos.”

A Welsh government spokesman said the health and safety of pupils and staff was of paramount importance. He said that once the responses of local authorities were received the education minister would “decide in due course how to proceed”.


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