Schools staff are being left in the dark about the presence of asbestos in their workplace, leaving them and their pupils at risk of exposure, a survey by the National Union of Teachers has revealed.
An online survey by the union showed nearly 50 per cent of all respondents had not been told whether their school contained asbestos – despite the substance being present in 86 per cent of schools.
Less than 5 per cent had been told their school did not contain asbestos, a substance known to cause illnesses such as mesothelioma, a cancer linked exclusively to asbestos exposure.
Parents need to be reassured that asbestos is being safely managed in their child’s school
Of the 46 per cent of respondents told that their school contained asbestos, half did not know where it was located, leaving them unable to take steps to avoid disturbing it.
Earlier this year, an in-depth Schools Week investigation revealed how staff and pupils have been exposed to asbestos more than 90 times in the past five years – as recorded by local councils.
More than £10 million in compensation has been paid out over the same time frame to teachers and pupils who suffered exposure.
Almost 250 staff and former pupils made claims with just under half winning. All had mesothelioma as a result of the exposure.
Children are particularly at risk of asbestos disease because of their long latency period and boisterous behaviour from young people in schools can aggravate the potential danger of asbestos, as they are more likely to disturb it.
Survey respondents reported incidents such as children punching holes in walls for example, or picking at plaster covering areas where asbestos was located.
In the union survey, nearly all respondents (96 per cent) agreed there should be a long term Government strategy for the phased removal of all asbestos in schools by 2028.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said the survey had uncovered “an appalling state of affairs in our schools”.
“It certainly serves to strengthen our case for the government to commit to a long-term strategy for the phased removal of asbestos from all our schools,” he said.
“Parents need to be reassured that asbestos is being safely managed in their child’s school, something we clearly cannot be confident of at the moment.”