About us

Asbestos in schools

 

About us - A story of asbestos

I am Richard Lees and run this site. I concentrate on the Parent's campaign. My information is based on the authoritative and referenced research of my brother, Michael Lees. You can see his web site at www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk

Michael's wife Gina was a primary and nursery school teacher, and died of mesothelioma at the age of 51. Over the course of her thirty year teaching career she had taught in about twenty five state and private schools. At her inquest the coroner gave a verdict of Death from Industrial Disease, and in his summing up he spoke at length of the dangers of asbestos in schools.

Michael checked the asbestos records of every school Gina had taught in - where they existed and where the school authorities were willing to release them. He spoke to local authorities, planning authorities, school authorities, chairmen of governors, architects, builders, asbestos surveyors and removal contractors, former colleagues and headteachers. He found that the vast majority of schools she worked in contained asbestos, some in large quantities. In some schools there had been no asbestos survey and there was no system of asbestos management, in some the asbestos was damaged on a daily basis.

Michael and I expected a thorough investigation and action to be taken to warn other teachers and children in the classrooms where there was evidence that significant asbestos exposure had occurred. Nothing happened. One school, a System built school, contained large quantities of amosite asbestos, and it was known that Gina, her children and other teachers and staff had been regularly exposed to asbestos. Despite this the school authorities refused to inform the other staff, and parents of their exposure, and the HSE supported them in keeping the matter secret.

Another school owned and governed by the same Church of England organisation contained significant quantities of asbestos and yet had not carried out an asbestos survey and had no system of asbestos management. HSE were notified that staff and pupils were at risk, but they took the decision not to inspect the school or investigate the allegations. Because of this two more years were allowed to pass before the school finally carried out an asbestos survey and implemented a system of asbestos management. Despite his wife and son attending the school the school authorities refused to let Michael see the results of the asbestos survey, and still refuse to do so.

Soon after Gina's death it became apparent that many other schools had no proper system of asbestos management so that many other staff and children were potentially being exposed to the deadly fibres. He therefore widened his research to look at the regulations, guidance, present and past government policy, he read research papers and consulted leading experts in the field. A picture started evolving of a problem on a mammoth scale with widespread use of asbestos in schools and a failure to adequately control the release of asbestos fibres. Documents obtained from the National Archives and under the Freedom of Information act showed how the Government was warned of the dangers to children in schools over forty years ago but for financial reasons and political expediency had allowed the use of asbestos to continue. And how rather than taking proper action, had instead kept the dangers and scale of the problem from teachers and parents in case they might demand the removal of all asbestos, which of course would be prohibitively expensive. In the seven years since Gina's death he has found obscuration, secrecy, manipulation of the facts and manipulation of science by Government Ministers, Government Departments, local authorities and school authorities. Some of his research is in the papers attached to the asbestos in schools web site. Other papers will be added to the web-site. The web-site is widely used by individuals and professional bodies who want a wider understanding of the issue.

He was instrumental in tests being carried out, and the government's scientific committee being convened to determine the level of asbestos fibre release from displaying children's work with drawing pins in asbestos ceilings and walls. Because of this HSE and DfES issued warnings to teachers not to stick drawing pins in walls. He has given presentations to teaching union safety representatives, mesothelioma interest groups and a Parliamentary asbestos seminar. In February 2008 a presentation to the Parliamentary asbestos sub-committee was supported by Trade Unions and professional bodies. He asked for a campaign to be reinstated to improve the asbestos management in schools. He also asked for a policy of openness with a parliamentary select committee to take evidence and report to Parliament. His proposals have been accepted - but the committee have not yet persuaded the Government to act. He needs your help to persuade them to do so by taking some simple, effective action.

We want parents to have the right to know if their child could potentially be exposed to asbestos at school. We have started a parent's campaign - please examine our objectives carefully, and, if you agree with them, please join us in a campaign to end the secrecy. To allow parents to know the facts so that they can influence local and Government policy that effects the majority of children in this country.

Please fight for your right to know the facts and make our children's schools safe.

 

Richard Lees

 

This campaign is organised by Richard Lees. It is based on research by Michael Lees. Although Michael Lees totally agrees with the objecctives and with the campaign, the campaign is not run by him. Statements made by the campaign, whether on this web site or elsewhere, should not be quoted as being from Michael Lees, or, necessarily approved by him.

Michael Lees authoritative research can be seen at www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk and that is approved by him, closely referenced and can be quoted,

 


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