The department takes the issue of asbestos in schools seriously, and is committed to supporting schools, local councils and academy trusts to fulfil their duty to manage asbestos safely. If managed carefully, the presence of asbestos in schools does not pose a risk to staff or pupils. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that as long as asbestos-containing materials are undamaged, encapsulated and not in locations where they are vulnerable to damage, they should be managed in situ.
In February 2017 the department published a report of a survey of asbestos management in schools. Approximately 25% of schools in England responded to the survey. Of the 83% of schools with asbestos present: 98% had an asbestos management survey; 97% had an asbestos register; and 97% reported that they had processes and procedures in place to prevent disturbance of asbestos in the education estate. We plan in future to seek written assurance from all duty holders that their schools are compliant with existing legislation and guidance on the management of asbestos in schools.
In February 2017 the department also published updated guidance, which provides information on action duty holders should take in order to prevent pupils and staff being exposed to asbestos. The guidance makes clear that the removal of asbestos should take place only if asbestos containing materials are in poor condition and advises on the risks of unsafe removal. It advises on actions that duty holders must take where work is carried out on the premises which might disturb asbestos containing materials (including asbestos removal).
The Government has committed more than £10 billion over 2016-2021 to rebuild, expand and maintain the school estate. Over time it is expected that this programme of work will eradicate asbestos in the education estate. The department directly funds the removal of asbestos through schemes such as the Priority Schools Building Programme and provides capital funding for asbestos management and removal where appropriate for schools that have identified that asbestos is in poor condition or poses a high risk of deterioration.
Data on the number of deaths of (1) teachers, (2) students, and (3) others, who may have contracted mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases while in school buildings is not collected by the department. The HSE publish information, copy attached, on their website on asbestos-related deaths, available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/asbestos.htm.