Trade unions are calling for the Government to prioritise the removal of asbestos from all schools and colleges.
The call from the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) follows the death of a former teacher from the asbestos related cancer mesothelioma. Sue Stephens was a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire for almost 30 years and died in June this year aged 68.
JUAC was established in 2010 and comprises the Association of School and College Leaders, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Association of Head Teachers, The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the National Union of Teachers, Voice plus the education sections of UNISON, Unite, UCATT and the GMB.
The Committee says that around 86% of schools contain asbestos and deaths from mesothelioma are increasing. In 2013, 17 teachers died of mesothelioma and it is estimated that 200-300 former pupils are dying each year as adults because of exposure to asbestos at school, according to JUAC.
The group is urging the government to set out a long term strategy for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools, describing the continuing presence of asbestos as “a scandal, especially as all of it is now old, and much of it deteriorating.”
John McClean, Chair of JUAC and Secretariat of the Asbestos in Schools Group, said,”Tragically there has been yet another death resulting from asbestos exposure in schools. The continuing presence of asbestos in so many of our schools is a disgrace. Effective Government action to tackle this scourge is long overdue and our children and school staff deserve better.”
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