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Asbestos concerns raised over 700 schools in England

05 July 2019

Just under 700 English schools have been referred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over fears that they are not managing asbestos in their buildings in the correct manner, The Guardian has reported.

It attributes the raising of the issue to the Department for Education (DfE), after it referred 676 state-funded schools and academies to the HSE that had failed to provide evidence to last year's government inquiry.

This was launched with the aim of finding out more about asbestos in schools and their management processes.

It received responses from 2,952 schools, resulting in 2,570 reporting that asbestos was known to be present in at least one of their buildings.

Nearly 700 schools had subsequently failed to provide sufficient information on the means with which asbestos is being managed by their school, resulting in the DfE referrals to the HSE.

The Guardian also refers to research results that show that young people are more at risk to exposure of asbestos fires, although the source of this is not provided.

The most recent report from the HSE stated that more than 2,500 people in the UK died from previous exposure to asbestos in 2017, with numbers expected to remain at this level for the next decade.

Recent years have seen instances of educational establishments having to close while asbestos work is carried out.

Reference to the National Education Union (NEU) study in 2017 was also quoted by The Guardian, which found that 46% of respondents had been informed that their school contained asbestos, although half had not been informed where it was located.

Another concern is the ageing school estate, with 60% of buildings more than 40 years old, leading to potential issues as materials begin to decay and allow asbestos fibres to escape.

Additional initiatives being pursued in this area include the creation of a website to show all the schools that have asbestos within their buildings.

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