Time bomb in the classroom
Jonathan Owen in the Independent on Sunday , today 29th January 2012, investigates asbestos in schools and the government decision to exclude asbestos from a review of conditions in schools.
‘The Government has deliberately excluded asbestos from an unprecedented review of the condition of the country’s schools because it knows that tackling the risks to schoolchildren and teachers could cost hundreds of millions, critics claim.
Campaigners reacted with fury last night as it emerged a year-long survey of England’s 23,000 schools will examine every aspect of buildings – from classroom decoration to whether fire alarms and toilets are in working order – but will specifically exclude asbestos, the most serious threat of all to staff and pupils.
An internal Department for Education email, seen by The Independent on Sunday, makes it clear that pressure to include asbestos in the assessment of the state of schools, which begins in April and will be used to inform future funding, had to be resisted due to “cost implications and the fact that asbestos management should already be carried out under existing legal requirements”. The memo, dated September 2011, suggests that the survey programme “might well be able to provide some prompts and checks on that wider process, however”.’
Asbestos in London Schools
This article £85m fund for soaring asbestos claims by Neil Millard published some time ago in the Evening Standard, 27 October 2009, gives details about teacher Joan Henry who taught in two east London schools and died of mesothelioma, aged 57, in 2007. The London Pensions Fund Authority, responsible for staff from the former Inner London Education Authority and GLC, has set aside £85m to fund future cases. They see about 12 cases a year and expect this to double to around 24 cases a year. Stephen Henry, Mrs Henry’s widower received £180,000 compensation in an out of court settlement. The schools she worked at – St Philip Howard in Poplar and Chase Cross in Romford – have both closed.