Over 80% of schools in England contain asbestos, according to the AMAP report

Co-authored by Chantelle Adadevoh and Laura Magson

Last year the Department for Education (DfE) launched the Asbestos Management Assurance Process (AMAP) to enhance its understanding of the management of asbestos in schools.

All state-funded schools and academies in England were expected to participate in the AMAP, although the participation was voluntary. The data collection started on 1 March 2018 and out of the 22,072 schools invited a total of 19,522 (88.4%) had participated by 15 February 2019. The AMAP remains open so that the remaining schools can still provide their data.

Asbestos is a material that was used heavily in construction in England from the 1950s until the mid-1980s when the dangers of it became known. Although 1999 saw the use of all asbestos types being banned in building construction, any school built before the year 2000 could well contain asbestos.

Since 2001, at least 305 teaching and education professionals have died of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. A 2018 study also suggested that there were five times more deaths from mesothelioma amongst teachers than expected in populations not exposed to the toxic substance. The same study also found that the number of female primary and secondary school teachers who have died from mesothelioma has increased fourfold since 1980 and the number of male primary and secondary school teachers has more than doubled.

It is thought asbestos in schools is often found around pipes and boilers, and in wall and ceiling tiles. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that generally, asbestos does not pose a risk as long as it is kept in good condition, is well-managed and is not damaged or disturbed. When the asbestos cannot be effectively managed, it should be removed so as not to pose a risk to the health of both the staff and pupils of the school.

Summary of findings of the AMAP report

Below are the key findings of the AMAP report. The percentages are based on the number of schools responding to each question:

  • 80.9% of those that participated in the study stated that asbestos is present on their school grounds;
  • 98.9% have sought professional advice to assist in the management of asbestos;
  • 98.7% have commissioned a management survey to highlight the location of asbestos-containing materials on their school grounds;
  • 99.1% of schools with asbestos present have an asbestos location register (ALR);
  • 95.4% of schools with asbestos present have an asbestos management plan (AMP);
  • 93.6% of schools have assessed the potential risk from asbestos-containing materials;
  • 94.2% of schools have said that they review the risks from asbestos-containing materials; and
  • 99.6% of schools have said that precautions are in place to ensure anyone who may disturb asbestos-containing materials is provided with information about any asbestos present.

The DfE provides funding which can be used to manage asbestos safely in schools. Since 2015, they have allocated over £7.4 billion to bodies responsible for school-buildings to provide essential maintenance and improvements, including the removal or encapsulating of asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so. In addition they have launched the Priority School Building Programme, which rebuilds or refurbishes buildings in the worst condition at over 500 schools across the country, prioritising those where asbestos poses a risk.

Schools participation in the AMAP report by region

Lancashire and West Yorkshire schools have the lowest participation rate with 82.2% of schools providing data, whilst schools in North England have the highest participation rate with 93.5% providing data for AMAP.

The DfE conducted this study by analysing the responses to the below questions:

  1. How do you know that there is no asbestos in your school’s buildings?
  2. Who in your organisation has read the department’s guidance on Asbestos Management in Schools?
  3. Have you taken professional advice to assist you in the management of asbestos on your school grounds?
  4. Did you commission a management survey to highlight the location of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs)?
  5. Did the management survey highlight the location of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs) on your school grounds? Please provide the date of the survey.
  6. Do you have an asbestos location register for your school?
  7. Do you have an asbestos management plan for your school?
  8. Have you assessed the potential risk from asbestos-containing materials for your school?
  9. Do you regularly review how to manage the risks from any asbestos-containing materials for your school?
  10. Are precautions in place to ensure that anyone who may disturb asbestos-containing materials is provided with information about any asbestos present?
  11. Do your in-house school staff (e.g. site managers) who may undertake maintenance have any asbestos-related training.

How do you know that there is no asbestos in your school’s buildings?

Of the participating schools, 17.8% stated that asbestos was not present within their school buildings. Of this figure:

  • 62.2% of schools were built without asbestos;
  • 19.4% have had asbestos removed from their estate; and
  • 14.3% have commissioned a survey to identify any asbestos on their estate.

Who in your organisation has read the department’s guidance on Asbestos Management in Schools?

Of the schools that responded to this question:

  • 72.4% of schools said that the head teachers have read the guidance;
  • 17.4% of schools said that the school governors have read the guidance;
  • 44.2% of schools said the caretakers have read the guidance;
  • 39.5% of schools said the facilities managers have read the guidance;
  • 2.5% of schools said that they did not know who had read the guidance; and
  • 0.3% of schools said that no one in their organisation had read the guidance.

The schools were also asked whether they knew which person was responsible for the management of asbestos in their school. 98.7% said that they did know who this person was, whilst the remaining 1.3% did not know.

Have you taken professional advice to assist you in the management of asbestos on your school grounds?

Of the schools that responded to this question, 98.9% of schools said that they had taken professional advice to assist in the management of asbestos in their school buildings and 1.1% had not.

Did you commission a management survey to highlight the location of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs)?

98.7% of the schools that responded to this question have commissioned a management survey to highlight the location of asbestos-containing materials within their school buildings.

Did the management survey highlight the location of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs) on your school grounds? Please provide the date of the survey.

99.5% of the number of schools who commissioned a management survey reported that the survey highlighted the presence of asbestos-containing materials.

28.5% of those schools had commissioned the survey within the last 12 months, 21.8% between 12-36 months and 49.7% have not had a survey in the last 36 months.

Do you have an asbestos location register for your school?

It is a key requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for the person responsible for asbestos management in the school to make and maintain a record of the location and condition of the asbestos-containing materials. Of the schools with asbestos present, 99.1% indicated that they have an ALR. Of this number, 79.3% have reviewed it within the last 12 months, 14.3% last reviewed it between 12-36 months ago, and 6.4% have not reviewed their ALR in the last 36 months.

Do you have an asbestos management plan for your school?

Another key requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is for the person responsible for asbestos management in the school to prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from asbestos-containing materials will be managed. Analysis indicated that 95.4% of schools with asbestos present have an AMP.

Out of those schools which do have an AMP 70.5% have reviewed it within the last 12 months, 18.7% have reviewed in within the last 12-36 months and 10.8% have not reviewed their AMP within the last 36 months.

Have you assessed the potential risk from asbestos-containing materials for your school?

A risk assessment should be completed before any work is started on the school that may disturb the asbestos. The assessment should take into account the nature and condition of the asbestos, whether they are likely to be disturbed and the necessary action required to manage the risks.

Of the schools that responded to this question, 93.6% indicated that they have assessed the potential risk from asbestos-containing materials.

Of this number, 71.2% have assessed the risk within the past 12 months, 18% last assessed the risk between 12-36 months ago and 10.8% have not assessed it within the last 36 months.

Do you regularly review how to manage the risks from any asbestos-containing materials for your school?

It is also a key requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 that the person responsible for asbestos management in the school to periodically review and monitor the plan and arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date. 94.2% of schools that responded to this question stated that they have reviewed their risk assessment, whilst the remaining 5.8% indicated that they have not.

Of those schools that have reviewed their risk assessment, 89.2% have reviewed it within the past 12 months, 9.6% have reviewed it within the last 12-36 months and the remaining 1.2% have not reviewed it in the last 36 months.

Are precautions in place to ensure that anyone who may disturb asbestos-containing materials is provided with information about any asbestos present?

Anyone in-house, or who comes on-site to carry out any work on the premises should not start work before they are given information about any asbestos present. Of the schools that responded, 99.6% of schools indicated that they had precautions in place to this effect, whilst the remaining 0.4% stated that they did not.

Do your in-house school staff (e.g. site managers) who may undertake maintenance have any asbestos-related training?

Of the schools that answered this question:

  • 86.6% have in-house staff who have undertaken asbestos awareness training;
  • 0.5% have in-house staff who have had Licensable work with asbestos training (i.e. low intensity);
  • 0.9% have in-house staff with non-licensable work with asbestos, including Notifiable Non-Licensed Work (NNLW) training; and
  • 13.3% of schools stated that their in-house staff had not received any of the above training.

Next steps

The DfE intends to contact the remaining 11.6% of schools that did not respond to the AMAP to ask them to complete the data collection and will share guidance on asbestos management to support those schools.

In terms of those schools who responded suggesting that their current asbestos management could be improved, the Department will follow up with them on this, sharing guidance with them where needed and notifying the Health and Safety Executive if necessary.

If you wish to read the full AMAP report, this can be accessed here.

Our conclusion/views on the report

It is clear from this report that asbestos poses a huge problem in our schools and as a mother of two primary school age children it is a worry for me. However it is positive that so many schools participated in the AMAP and it is encouraging that a good percentage of schools have taken professional advice in managing it.

The service was personal, professional and considered. I was treated so kindly and in the end I knew that not only had I found the right organisation but also the right person.

Boyes Turner client

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