A group of MP’S are seriously concerned about schools with asbestos in England not reporting details of asbestos to the government.
All schools were requested to provide details of asbestos in their buildings to the government by May 31st last year.
However, It has been reported that almost a quarter of schools in England (23%) have failed to do this and are they also not saying how they are managing the risks associated with the hazardous substance.
The MP’s that form the Public Accounts Committee are calling for the schools that have failed to report back to be named and shamed.
As a result of those schools who haven’t responded, it means that the Department for Education are lacking information about them.
The DfE have been collating information since March last year to try and ascertain how asbestos is being managed in England’s schools.
Its aim was also to check that academy trusts and local authorities were responding appropriately.
The committee stated that they needed to know the extent of schools with asbestos and how they are going to manage it.
They say, “The department asked schools to respond by 31 May 2018. Due to the poor response rate, it extended the deadline to 25 June 2018 and then extended it again to 27 July 2018.”
“Despite this, only 77% of schools have responded and the department has extended the deadline yet again, to 15 February 2019, to allow the remaining 23% of schools to respond.”
“We are not convinced that extending the survey deadline again will result in a much higher response rate.”
“In March 2019, the department should name and shame those schools which did not meet the February 2019 deadline and which have therefore repeatedly failed to respond to its asbestos-management survey.”
Committee Chairperson, Meg Hillier, said, “It is not acceptable for schools to continue ignoring requests for details of asbestos in their buildings.”
“Government needs to be clear how asbestos removal will be funded as it is not possible for schools to fund this from their existing budgets.”
“Asbestos can pose a significant threat to the health of pupils, staff and visitors.”
“Where the risks are not being managed correctly, government must be prepared to step in.”
However, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said there was nothing to gain in naming and shaming schools.
Mr Barton stated that the government must understand that schools needed money to address the issue.
He said, “The committee suggests naming and shaming those bodies which have not responded but it would surely be more productive to understand what factors are holding up responses.”
“The real problem is not response rates but the fact that there is no clear plan at government level over how to fund the removal of asbestos from school buildings and schools are desperately short of the money they need to finance such work.”
Joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, has disagreed and said, “Failure to provide the DfE with information about management of asbestos in schools is putting lives at risk.”
“These delays show that academy trusts and local authorities who bear overall responsibility for health and safety in schools are not facing up to their legal responsibilities.”
“Academies are subject to higher levels of accountability and transparency than local authority schools.”
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Published Jan 30, 2019