'No limit' to danger of asbestos in schools, Rowen tells Government

March 26, 2009 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Putting Rochdale FIRST!Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has told the Government that there is 'no limit' to the risk posed to pupils, teachers and staff who may be in contact with asbestos every day that they are in school.

Surveys show that up to 90% of schools across the country could have asbestos within their walls and Mr Rowen announced in Parliament yesterday that the Government is not doing enough to deal with the problem.

The Rochdale MP did have some success in forcing the Government to change Headteacher and School Business Manager Training to include asbestos awareness training but was disappointed with the fact that the minister did not agree to instigate a full review of the potential dangers posed by asbestos in schools.

During the debate Mr Rowen said: "Asbestos has no respect for status, position, job or occupation. There are no safe limits.

"Asbestos is present in a large number of our schools that were built or modified between the 1940s and 1985, when its use was banned. It was mainly used as thermal insulation in boilers, in insulation boards used for fire protection, for acoustic purposes on ceilings, ducts, partitions and service shafts, and on steelwork for fire protection purposes.

"I suggest that we start the national audit with 100 schools that have been selected to provide a cross-section, followed by a full survey of all schools within a defined period-for example, five years. The Department should make additional resources available to any school that agrees to the survey and is shown to need remedial work."

Mr Rowen now plans to conduct his own confidential survey of schools and use the results to force the Government to take action.

198 teachers are known to have died from asbestos related diseases, while at least 400 have contracted illnesses related to the deadly fibre.

"Whilst I was pleased that with the Government's concession that proper training needs to be provided to all head teachers and school managers regarding their current responsibilities in this area, I felt that her reply stopped short of my call for the Government to carry out a confidential national survey of schools followed by funding from DCSF for any school identified during the survey as needing remedial work," he said after the debate.

"The Government also needs to implement a policy of replacing all asbestos containing materials in schools as part of a national strategy with clear targets in order to provide safe environments for the nation's pupils to succeed.

"I have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) repeating this call to try and persuade the Government to support my case."