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Who funds asbestos removal in schools?

Awareness of the dangers is just the start

Being aware of the dangers of asbestos is imperative for its safe removal from schools and other buildings in the UK. In fact, Asbestos Awareness training is a legal requirement for firms who employ tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians and fitters.

Online courses provide the knowledge needed to stay safe, and also protect the health and safety of others. Generally taking around 90 minutes to complete, the e-learning option offers flexibility to learn in a busy day.

At the end of each course a UKATA certificate can be downloaded which is valid for 12 months, after which time a further course would be needed to update knowledge.

Dangers of asbestos in schools

The question of who foots the bill for the removal of asbestos in schools has come under scrutiny recently, and a report in the Guardian revealed the difficulty some schools are experiencing in funding its removal.

The problems experienced by an Oxfordshire primary school are a case in point. They have a sign displayed in one of their temporary classrooms, warning of the presence of encapsulated asbestos. Although being aware that asbestos is present will save lives, it is proving difficult for the school to remedy the situation due to the high cost of asbestos removal.

The Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) was set up to bring antiquated schools up-to-date, and the primary school concerned did apply for the funding needed to demolish and replace the classrooms concerned.

Funding was refused, and although contractors claimed that the PSBP does not fund this type of work, this claim was later refuted by the Department for Education.

Ongoing disputes like this mean that asbestos dangers remain

The fact that the removal of asbestos in schools should be a priority issue has come under some debate. A report by the Department for Education quotes the Health and Safety Executive’s view on the matter:

“… asbestos levels found in the ambient air of schools during normal occupation are likely to be lower than in the past.”

But campaigners for the removal of asbestos from schools argue that the very presence of children makes it a unique environment – their natural ebullience combined with the fragility of some of these buildings being a dangerous mix.

Although it is widely known that asbestos should not be disturbed, when children are running around the release of asbestos fibres can happen silently and invisibly.

Lack of funding not the only issue

Although lack of funding for the removal of asbestos is a major issue, it is not the only one where schools are concerned. Asbestos in Schools campaign leader, Michael Lees, has questioned the Department for Education’s decision not to include asbestos in its school building audit.

He was quoted in the Guardian as saying:

“The audit of the condition of school buildings cost £20m, and yet the DfE specifically excluded one of the most expensive items to maintain, refurbish or demolish a school – asbestos.”