The Department considers the health and safety of staff and pupils in school as paramount. Since 2015, the Department has allocated £5.6 billion to those responsible for school buildings and for essential maintenance, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so. In addition, through the £4.4 billion Priority School Building Programme, the Department is rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition in over 500 schools across the country. Asbestos is a factor in choosing which schools to re-build.
Advice from the Health and Safety Executive is that if asbestos is unlikely to be damaged or disturbed, then it is best managed in situ. The blanket and accelerated removal of asbestos in schools is potentially a more dangerous and greater risk to pupils and staff. Any decision to remove asbestos is taken on a case by case basis, based on the risk of exposure and the work to be undertaken. While asbestos will be removed over time from the school estate as part of any rebuilding or refurbishment programme, the Department has not committed to the phased removal of all asbestos by a specific date.