Asbestos in schools

Checking Asbestos management

Parents and children do not have the same rights as teachers and ancillary staff but there is much you can do to find out what asbestos is in your school and how well it is managed.

This is how to go about it

If your school was built or refurbished before 2000 it is likely to contain asbestos. If it is we suggest you ask the following three questions of the LE(A) or the school:

  1. Is a copy of the school asbestos management plan and survey available to parents? Where can I see it?
  2. Is any part of my school "System" Built? If so:
    • Has the HSE/SCAPE guidance of October 2006 and March 2007 been followed?
    • Have HSE inspectors checked compliance with the October 2006 and March 2007 guidance?
  3. Have air tests that represent normal school activity been undertaken in each classroom corridor and public area (like a gymnasium) as part of the asbestos survey? Are these air tests being done as part of regular asbestos management?

 Assessing the Answers

Question One

The survey should identify the type, extent and condition of all accessible asbestos including any in the ceiling void. It should be at least a "Type 2" that takes samples and identifies the type of asbestos used (Amosite, crocidolite and chrysotile.) However it is unlikely to be definitive about hidden asbestos as that can only be identified by looking in the inaccessible places and intentionally damaging walls, roofs etc which will inevitably release fibres. Realistically if asbestos fibres are being released from damaged, hidden asbestos it can only be discovered by air tests (See below). The survey should, however, give a good idea of what is where, its type and what condition it is in. Find that out and ask if teachers and asbestos managers have been told. Also check if they know what sealing, if any, is in place so teachers, managers and maintenance staff can quickly identify if any sealant is damaged or missing.

Asbestos management Check the asbestos management plan against this advice.

Question 2

System Built School A positive answer tells you that gaps and cracks in suspended ceilings, walls, columns and skirting have been identified and sealed and that the tops of columns and wall voids have been sealed. The reason that is important can be seen on this ITN News film. If you want to find out more read or download this factual, researched paper. You can then decide for yourself on the safety of the tests, on the effectiveness of the remedial measures and on the assurances you receive from officials.

Question 3

Air tests This answer is a vital one as testing the air whilst simulated normal school activity takes place is the only effective way of finding out if hidden asbestos is damaged and if sealing of asbestos is working. The simulated disturbance should include activities such as brushing the surfaces, doors being slammed, walls hit and windows being slammed (Note: The intentional banging of walls, windows and doors should only be carried out by specialists under controlled conditions.) You will probably be told that different air tests, or no air tests have taken place. If alternative tests have been in still air or are "reassurance tests" we suggest that unless there is a written record on the test results that realistic disturbance has been carried out, then they do not simulate normal school conditions and the results will be far lower than they would have been.

Without air tests in simulated real conditions we suggest that nobody knows whether asbestos fibres are being released and nobody can calculate what low level, cumulative exposure may be taking place. If you agree with us and have had an unsatisfactory answer then join our campaign.

Further Information

 System Built Schools In addition to the advice above there are recommendations that cover asbestos management in System built schools that have been written in consultation with the Teachers Unions and the Asbestos Consultants Trade Body.

Damage to the school It worries us that holes in ceilings, gaps round skirting boards, damaged walls, water ingress through roofs are often dismissed as "safe" and past exposure from them as "completely safe" – without evidence from air tests that represent normal school activity. Please look at the facts, assess their validity, and make your own decision. If unsatisfied join our campaign

Common sense action

We want the common sense measures we list to be put in place. If they had been put in place 20 years ago we would know about System Built schools and other schools with asbestos. Public scrutiny would have ensured that successive governments took actions to make schools safe from asbestos. Only then would we have been certain that children are not, and have not been, exposed to asbestos

Please ask why these measures have not been put in place. Then openly analyse and question HSE, the LEA and other authorities on their past actions, and on their statements.

Then join our campaign


About us

Checking asbestos management

Teachers' Unions press releases

Contacting MPs Asbestos exposure in Schools Home
Campaign objectives

Campaign for change and contacts

Release of asbestos Fibres in System Built schools Asbestos Recommendations for System Built Schools Asbestos Policy Improvements Send and request further information

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 and that is approved by him, closely referenced and can be quoted,