Some of the sites the government is buying for free schools don’t have current asbestos surveys, meaning the taxpayer could have to fit a potential bill of millions for the necessary refurbishments once asbestos is discovered later on, Schools Week reports.
Experts have said that because the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is ‘under pressure’ to find sites for free schools, the resulting surveys of ‘varying quality’ haven‘t always identified all asbestos in all school buildings.
And John McClean, chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, says ‘political pressure’ to find school sites means the EFA has to rely on ‘rushed’ site surveys.
Yet, just last year, minister for vulnerable children Edward Timpson insisted the EFA should complete asbestos surveys before a site was purchased ‘if further investigation’ was deemed necessary.
Now it’s being reported that at least six schools had the green light from the EFA without a proper survey having been done. Freedom of Information requests revealed that a number asked for more money after asbestos was subsequently discovered.
What’s more, the bill for removing asbestos can run to as much as £5m. A school must then be made serviceable once more before pupils can move back in.
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the Asbestos In Schools steering group, described the government’s ‘failure’ to carry out appropriate asbestos survey work at all pre-2000 sites (i.e. before the year when the carcinogenic substance was banned) as ‘grossly negligent’. She added that schools were potentially also risking staff and pupils’ health.
Schools in Blackburn, Bournemouth and Bradford were found to have extensive or high-risk asbestos on their sites. In Nottingham, the EFA gave an institution the go-ahead before a survey found white asbestos around pipework and floor debris, although this was removed before students moved in.
Better surveys from the outset, along with competent asbestos awareness training for staff, would save money and be less disruptive in the long run by removing all asbestos at an earlier stage.
The Department for Education stressed that the government was investing £23bn in school buildings by 2021, which ‘would help manage asbestos safely’. It also says it is changing the way information about asbestos is collected in schools to enhance understanding.
At Core Surveys, we find reports like this worrying and believe they firmly highlight the need for high-quality, effective asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys carried out at an early stage of any building project, whether it’s a refurbishment or new build, for a school or any other type of premises.
With more than four decades’ combined experience in the asbestos survey industry, we’re specialist consultants in this field for asbestos management surveys, refurbishment and demolition surveys. Core Surveys are UKAS accredited to ISO17020 for undertaking asbestos surveys and all samples are analysed at our in-house laboratory which is UKAS accredited to ISO17025. We are also UKAS accredited for asbestos air monitoring during and following asbestos removal, which means we are perfectly placed to offer the full asbestos consultancy package from survey through to project management and sign-off of asbestos removal, ensuring that you comply with the law at all times.
A good survey, carried out at the right time, will save your organisation money in the long run. Talk to us today.