Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used for years in construction due to its resistance to heat and chemicals. In 1994, asbestos was banned in the UK and is now classed as a class 1 carcinogen. Asbestos is likely to be found in older school buildings that were built before 1994, therefore it is vital asbestos surveys in schools and places of education are carried out and that the current protocol for management or removal is followed. This blog will detail the places’ asbestos can be found in schools, what to do if duty holders suspect asbestos is present and who should be informed.

Where can asbestos be found in schools?

Asbestos can be found in a range of different places in schools. It is likely that if a school was built before 2000, it contains some level of asbestos. Here are a few of the places’ asbestos might be present in schools:

  • Thermal insulation on pipes and boilers.
  • Sprayed asbestos may have been used for fire protection, portioning and ducts.
  • Ceiling and floor tiles.
  • Cement roofing or guttering.
  • Any textured coatings such as Artex ceilings. 

Who is responsible for managing asbestos in schools?

This will depend on what type of school asbestos is found in. For community and community special schools, voluntary controlled schools, maintained nurseries and pupil referral units the responsibility lies with the local authority. The responsibility for academies, free schools, voluntary aided schools, and foundation schools lies with the school governors and for independent schools the responsibility will lie with the proprietor, governors, or trustees. 

Once you have identified who is responsible for managing asbestos in your school, you will then need to follow the correct protocols to ensure the asbestos is managed or removed correctly. The process may differ for different parts of the UK, so we recommend checking your government website or visiting the National Education Union’s website for further information. 

Who should be informed if asbestos is found in a school?

After following the correct protocols to inform the local authority and relevant bodies of the presence of asbestos in your school, it is important to inform other stakeholders. 

Caretakers and maintenance staff should be informed of the presence of asbestos, as they are most likely to be at risk should the asbestos be disturbed during maintenance work. 

It is also recommended that school staff are informed, as they should be made aware of any potential hazards. Staff should be instructed not to damage or disturb any asbestos containing materials. For example, this may include not pinning artwork or notices to walls, as this could lead to the release of asbestos fibres.

It is also worth noting that it is not a requirement to inform parents of the presence of asbestos in schools. Some schools may choose to inform parents that the correct management processes have been implemented to provide parents with peace of mind. Whether or not to inform parents is a decision for the school staff and governors.

Should parents be concerned if asbestos is found in their child’s school?

It is not uncommon for buildings of all types to contain asbestos, the presence of asbestos in your child’s school should not be a cause for concern if it correctly managed. There are strict legal duties for schools regarding asbestos, and the relevant bodies will carry out inspections to ensure the correct protocols and management processes have been followed.

If you are a duty holder and expect the presence of asbestos in your school, please contact our team, who will be able to provide advice and conduct an asbestos survey if necessary.