Successive governments failed to tackle schools asbestos “scandal”

30th March 2016

Staff members and pupils of British schools are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses due to the lack of action taken by successive governments, an investigation by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has revealed.

The report stated that, for decades, governments have failed to force schools to inform parents that there is asbestos in their children’s school as well as keep records of the material’s presence. It also accused Whitehall of having a “scandalous disregard for life” for allowing inadequate asbestos surveys to take place, reports As a result, past, present and future schoolgoers could be impacted.

According to information attained by a Freedom of Information request, politicians said that introducing new laws which aimed to help lower the risk of asbestos exposure were too expensive, so the idea was dismissed. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teacher and Lecturers (ATL), was shocked by the report.

“It is outrageous that staff and pupils are still dying from being exposed to asbestos in schools,” she stated. “ATL has been campaigning about this for years. Action must be taken by the government now.”

It is unknown how big the asbestos problem is, as no comprehensive survey has been carried out on school buildings, so experts don’t know how many are affected. Further, the report shows that the risk asbestos poses to children has so far been underestimated because the assessments carried out were aimed at adults working with asbestos. Long-term exposure poses a greater threat to children as they are known to be more vulnerable.

Official figures suggest that 75 per cent of schools contain asbestos, though the NUT thinks a more accurate figure is nearer 86 per cent. For more information, take a look at our infographic.