The original deadline for supplying the necessary information was 31 May 2018. This was then extended several times, eventually until February 2019, because of insufficient responses. Whilst we recognise that the response is better than the previous DfE exercise of this type, to which only 25 per cent of schools responded, and that the exercise has shone a light on many shortcomings, many concerns remain.
- At the start of the process the DfE was clear that it intended to publish data showing which ‘Responsible Bodies’ - generally local authorities and academy trusts – had provided assurance declarations on behalf of schools. In the March 2018 AMAP User Guide it stated ‘We intend to publish data that shows which Responsible Bodies have provided assurance declarations. This is an important part of being transparent on meeting health and safety duties, but also aims to provide assurance to members of the public that you are managing asbestos in your schools’. It has reneged on this undertaking.
- Parents and staff can only check whether their child’s school is on a list of those which participated in the AMAP but cannot check whether it is ’assured’ and therefore managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements. There is absolutely no good reason for withholding this information.
- Schools were defined as managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements if they had an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan. This is setting a low bar. These documents could be sitting on a shelf gathering dust.
- ‘Responsible Bodies’ were asked to provide an electronic declaration that their schools were compliant with legislation on the management of asbestos in their education estate. Therefore, the exercise was about establishing an understanding about the management of asbestos in schools, not about how much asbestos there is and where it is located. Understanding how well or badly asbestos is being managed is of course important but the NEU believes that the DfE should also hold information about the extent and condition of asbestos in schools. If not the DfE, then who else could gather this information?
- Only 14,840 schools had their response ‘assured’ by their Responsible Body.
- 2,500 schools did not participate (11.6 per cent of total) despite several reminders and despite there being an expectation that all should participate. This means that there are 2,500 schools where the Government has no idea how well, or badly, asbestos is being managed.
- Nearly 700 schools were referred to the HSE as causing concern meaning that thousands of children and staff could be at risk from poor asbestos management. NEU welcomes the fact that these schools have been identified as needing support but questions whether the HSE will have the resources to investigate all these schools and help them to improve.
- 251 of the schools which responded did not know if asbestos was present. It is shocking that any school should be in that position.
- 37 per cent of schools that responded had an asbestos survey that was more than 5 years old.
- No question was asked about whether information about location of asbestos was shared with staff or with parents. This is absolutely essential, and failure to share information with staff and parents is one of NEU’s key concerns.
- Participation in the AMAP, although encouraged, was not compulsory. Future surveys should be made compulsory.
- Schools need funding, as well as expert support, to be able to address this issue. There is no earmarked funding for asbestos removal and schools are being crippled by Government funding cuts. The Government should stop putting lives at risk and commit to the phased removal of all asbestos in schools, starting with the most dangerous first.
Kevin Courtney/Mary Bousted, Joint NEU General Secretary, said: ‘We call upon the new Government to prioritise phased removal of asbestos from all schools for the sake of the health of children and staff. The Government must also release AMAP data showing which schools are deemed to be ‘assured’, which are not and which didn’t respond. Transparency is the only way in the short to medium term that we can seek to drive improvements in asbestos management."