To mark Action Mesothelioma Day 2021, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is releasing a report focusing on data obtained and analysed by Dr Gill Reed, JUAC Technical Adviser, which shows how failures by successive governments mean that some of our school buildings with the most dangerous asbestos may still be exposing staff and students for decades to come.
Authored by Dr Gill Reed, Technical Adviser to JUAC, this timely report sets out to establish if pupils and staff in CLASP-type* system-built schools are safer today than they were in the period 1960 to 1980. The conclusion is that they are not – in fact the report highlights that pupils and staff learning and working in CLASP-type schools since 1980 are more likely to die from mesothelioma than those doing so in the period 1960 to 1980.
Available evidence suggests that successive governments have ignored the potential risk from long-term low-level asbestos exposure. Urgent action is long overdue. The report (on page 53) sets out 10 recommendations for the current Government, including a national fully funded programme for phased removal of all asbestos from educational buildings, starting with the most dangerous, to be completed no later than 2028.
John McClean, chair of JUAC, said:
"This timely and comprehensive report highlights the ongoing failure of successive governments to deal with the asbestos problem in our education estate.
"For years JUAC has campaigned for the progressive, planned removal of asbestos from schools and further education colleges plus the reinstatement of proactive Health & Safety Executive inspections and greater transparency for staff, pupils and parents.
"The report highlights the issues in schools which are most likely to cause exposure to deadly asbestos fibres. This situation has gone on for too long and this report must serve as a catalyst for immediate government action."
Deborah Lawson, Assistant General Secretary of Community Union (Voice Community education section), said:
”The risk that past, present and future generations of pupils, teachers and support staff are subject to because of asbestos is inexcusable. This threat to their health must be removed.
"To delay is to put more lives at risk. The Government must act, and do so quickly to protect lives.
"This threat must be removed.”
Quotations from other general secretaries of the JUAC-member unions can be found on pp. 2-3 of the report.
Read JUAC's report (pdf)
CLASP is one type of system-built school, many of which were constructed in the period from 1945 to 1980, with a common feature being that structural columns were fireproofed with asbestos containing materials.
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) was formed in 2010 and is a trade union campaigning committee comprising eight unions: Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); National Education Union (NEU); NASUWT; UCU, Voice Community; plus the education sections of UNISON, Unite, and the GMB. The Group’s objective is to make all UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. All the unions in JUAC are also members of the Asbestos in Schools (AIS) campaign.
JUAC is a non-party political group. In the long-term we wish to see all asbestos removed from all schools and colleges. However, we recognise that, realistically, the focus in the short and medium-term must be on safe management of asbestos in schools and colleges.