A recent Education Funding Agency (EFA) survey found asbestos in schools is a “serious” problem with one fifth of respondent schools failing to follow HSE guidelines on asbestos management. One fifth of the 5592 schools in the survey were found to be “not fully compliant” with asbestos procedures, “in that they did not have fully documented plans, processes and procedures in place at the time of the data collection, or did not know if asbestos was present”. Of those, 114 schools were deemed a “significant cause for concern” and required intervention, according to the EFA’s sponsor department, the DfE, which then emailed those schools and received “reassurances” the asbestos is now safe. The responsible dutyholder for each school (the local authority, academy trust trustees or governors for independent schools) was notified, and the EFA did not take up the option of reporting them to the HSE.
The EFA has also now updated guidance issued to schools on the management of asbestos, which was first published in 2015. Your school buildings may contain asbestos if any part of them was built before 2000, it is extremely important that any asbestos present in your school is managed properly. The guidance sets out a number of steps: 1. Have a ‘management survey’ of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your school 2. Assess the risks associated with ACMs in your school 3. Devise a plan for managing asbestos in your school 4. Make sure staff, visitors and contractors know the risks and precautions they need to take 5. Keep the management of asbestos in your school under review If you need to undertake any refurbishment work in a building that contains asbestos, you may need to commission a refurbishment and demolition survey which will give you a more detailed understanding of the asbestos present in the building. In a statement provided to The Telegraph, a DfE spokesperson said: “The health and safety of children and staff in our schools is vital – that’s why we are investing £23 billion in school buildings by 2021. This will help ensure asbestos is managed safely and that the amount in school buildings continues to reduce over time.