Unions call for the complete removal of asbestos in schools by 2028

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is asking all prospective parliamentary candidates to commit to pursuing a national policy for the phased removal of all asbestos from educational establishments by 2028.

The non-party political group, formed by the country’s largest unions including the NUT, ASCL and NAHT, seeks to protect education workers and children by raising awareness about asbestos in schools and promoting improved management in education buildings.

The JUAC encouraged all schools to publish an annual report about the type and condition of all asbestos in the premises, to be shared with all parents, staff and stakeholders.

A motion passed at the Northern TUC conference in Newcastle last weekend called on the Northern TUC to produce a regional leaflet to raise awareness on the dangers of asbestos in schools and what can be done to address the problem, as well as promote the online petition calling for Justine Greening to help push the agenda.

According to data from Freedom Of Information requests submitted to Local Authorities, 86% of schools in England contain asbestos.

Since 1980, 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma, which can take up to 60 years to develop from asbestos exposure.

In the North East, Middlesbrough was the Local Authority area with the highest number of current or former school staff and pupils who have pursued a claim for asbestos exposure (5), with three of the claims being settled for a total of £19,729. However, there were no reported incidents in the past decade. Durham County paid the largest amount for its two settlements – £586,519 including fees.

Reported incidents of asbestos exposure 2011-2016 No. of current or former school staff or pupils who have pursued a claim for asbestos exposure No. of claims settled Amount of money paid in settlement
Darlington 0 0 0 £0
Durham 1 3 2 £428,860

(£586,519 inc. fees)

Gateshead 2 0 0 £0
Hartlepool 1 0 0 £0
Middlesbrough 0 5 3 £19,729
Newcastle 0 2 1 £159,914
North Tyneside 0 0 0 £0
Northumberland 0 3 0 £0
Redcar and Cleveland 0 2 1 Undisclosed
South Tyneside 1 Request refused Council does not hold information £313,714
Stockton-on-Tees 0 0 0 £0
Sunderland 0 1 0 £0
(All data was gathered by asbestos campaign Lucie Stephens from FOI requests to all Local Authorities and, therefore, the information only relates to state schools. They are all available here)

In March, the acting Head Teacher and former Head Teacher at Hetton School in Sunderland gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee about the deteriorating state of their school’s building. The committee heard how on a couple of occasions students were taken into an emergency de-fumigation van to make sure they were hosed down and cleaned, after strong winds caused tiles to move and dust to fall.

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