Academy trusts struggle to manage ‘serious’ threat of asbestos in schools, unions say
Academy trusts are struggling to manage the “serious” threat of asbestos in schools, unions have said.
More than 1,800 academies contain asbestos, according to new figures from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) – who said that the lives of children and teachers continue to be put “at risk”.
There were 54 reported incidents of asbestos exposure within academies, according to data from freedom of information (FOI) requests. It was found in classrooms, libraries and toilets.
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Despite this exposure, only five multi-academy trusts said enforcement action had been taken against them by the Health and Safety Executive in relation to asbestos management.
Unions said the real number of exposures is likely to be much higher as more than half of the trusts that were sent FOIs either refused to provide the information or provided incomplete responses.
And among the trusts that responded on asbestos, some said they did not hold records of exposure incidents, meanwhile others did not have an asbestos management plan in place.
The report from the JUAC concludes: “There was no uniformity across the trusts with regards to asbestos management. Some trusts provided examples of good practice, but many did not.
“It was clear that there are no standardised procedures followed when schools transfer to academy trusts. This highlights a serious problem with the increasing fragmentation of the education system.”
The JUAC is calling on the Department for Education to maintain a central database of the location and condition of all asbestos in schools.
Kevin Courtney, joint leader of the National Education Union, said: “It is disgraceful that school staff and former pupils continue to die because they were exposed to asbestos in our schools.
“These findings show that the government’s policy of leaving asbestos in situ is not working.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, added: “How many more years do we have to wait and how many more lives of children and young people and staff must be put at risk before the government acts to remove this deadly substance.Read the full story here
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