Asbestos is claiming the lives of up to 300 former pupils and 15 teachers a year, according to a report from the teaching union NUT. The union is calling for a national audit of all schools to assess the asbestos risk. It says said that while research suggests around 86 per cent of school buildings contain the substance – which can cause cancer – 44 per cent of teachers questioned did not know whether their school was one of them.
Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “There has to be a proper audit to determine the scale of the problem. The dangers of asbestos in schools are obvious. What is needed to truly address the problem is a concerted effort on a national scale.” She added: “Political parties must actively engage with a problem which is very far from being addressed and has taken many lives. Children, parents and staff deserve better.”
The newly published findings of an NUT survey conducted in March revealed that just 15 per cent of teachers who were aware that their school contained asbestos had seen a copy of a management plan to deal with the problem. One in three teachers reported there had been an incident that may have led to exposure to asbestos. The union added there could be extra risk for children at free schools, which are often opened in “unsuitable buildings.”
According to the World Health Organisation, Britain has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world, at 17.8 deaths per million of population.