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By Spencers Solicitors

  Spencers Solicitors    
  March 12, 2013

Spencers calls for extension of nationwide school survey to include asbestos in schools

Update 14th March: Read the full paper Spencers submitted to the Commons Education Select Committee

Spencers Solicitors, in advance of a House of Commons Education Select Committee evidence session tomorrow (Wednesday 13 March 2013) on Asbestos in Schools, is urging the Government to take action to address the long ignored problem of asbestos in our schools.

Spencers is calling for the current nationwide survey into the state of England's schools (the DfE's Property Data Survey Programme) to be extended to identify the scale of the problem of asbestos in our 23,000 educational premises and then to prioritise those schools that most need action.

Asbestos in schools is a vitally important and complex issue, but it has been neglected by successive governments, resulting in the deaths of teachers and other education workers every year. It is time for the DfE to stop delegating responsibility to individual local authorities and schools and for it to oversee the development of a nationwide programme to protect teachers and children from the dangers of asbestos.

John Spencer, Director of Spencers Solicitors, said:

"It is deeply shocking that 16 teachers died from mesothelioma in England in 2011 alone. If a teacher was killed every month in the classroom from violence there would be public outrage and urgent calls for action, but because it is asbestos-related it is largely ignored.

"It is a complete waste of an opportunity that the Department for Education is currently running a nationwide survey to consider the physical state of England’s schools, and yet asbestos is specifically not included. 

"In an ideal world we would do all we can to totally eradicate asbestos from our schools once and for all, but in reality we must prioritise funding towards those schools where teachers and our children are most at risk. We can only prioritise action and expenditure if the scale of the problem is fully understood."

Specifically, Spencers has called for:

• The DfE's Property Data Survey Programme to be extended urgently to include asbestos in schools. 

• There must be openness and transparency about the scale of the problem.

• There is no single body responsible for the issues of asbestos in schools - this is resulting in a piecemeal approach to the problem with no national picture of the problem existing.

• Regular school inspections and a comprehensive database available publically online of findings should be made available and there should be the phased removal of asbestos.

• Future Schools Capital Allocations must include provision for the removal of asbestos from the schools most at risk.

Update 14th March: Read the full paper Spencers submitted to the Commons Education Select Committee

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