The education boards respond to our questions

NORTH EASTERN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD:

The response from the NEELB stated that almost all schools built before 1999 contain some level of asbestos.

It provided a breakdown which showed that 13 nursery schools (81%), 170 primaries (81%), 34 secondaries (87%) and five special schools (55%) contain asbestos.

Four nursery schools, 84 primaries and 26 secondary schools contain asbestos materials considered of “medium risk”. None of these schools, or the special schools, have materials in the high or very high risk categories.

A survey of all school sectors in 2006 found that all of the 11 voluntary grammars contained asbestos. Nine of these schools had asbestos materials considered “medium risk”, four “high risk” and three in the highest risk category of “very high risk”.

It is very likely that this position has changed since 2006 but these schools hold their own asbestos registers, separate from the boards. Last month we asked the Governing Bodies Association (which represents voluntary grammars) for an update on the situation in these school. This information has not yet been provided.

A NEELB spokesman said that all asbestos containing materials are removed in a carefully controlled environment which complies with current legislation relating to asbestos removal and by using Health and Safety Executive approved contractors.

He continued: “The removal of all types of asbestos containing materials in schools has not been costed as this is not the recommended method of dealing with low grade asbestos.

“No one is at risk from asbestos as long as it is managed properly. It is viewed as entirely safe unless it is disturbed by, for example, drilling or new construction work. The asbestos management plans take account of this.

“The removal of asbestos is necessary only in exceptional circumstances.”

When asked about any legal action taken against the board which claimed illness/disease or death had been caused by asbestos, the spokesman confirmed that an action had been taken by an employee in 2002. This resulted in an out of court settlement of £22,500 paid for by an insurance company.

SOUTH EASTERN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD:

A total of 160 schools within the SEELB area contain asbestos. This includes primary and nursery schools, secondaries, special schools and grammars.

Five schools – including four primaries – contain crocidolite which is considered the most hazardous asbestos fibre. However, the board said that none of the asbestos containing materials identified have a risk factor of above 20 which is considered “high risk” by the Health and Safety Executive.

The SEELB said that around £200,000 would be needed for “proposed planned removal programmes” during 2011/12. It is not clear whether or not this funding has been secured.

There has already been legal action taken against the board and the settlement figure to date is £4,614.

When asked if anyone had been exposed to asbestos during incidents in schools, a board spokeswoman said: “In relation to incidents that have been reported to SEELB, caused either by maintenance activities or asbestos removal programmes, persons may have been exposed to asbestos fibres.”

BELFAST EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD:

In Belfast, 19 nursery schools (out of 37), 65 primary school buildings (out of a total of 81), 14 secondary schools (out of 20) and six special schools (out of a total of 11) contain asbestos.

Many of the primary and secondary schools contain both amosite and chrysotile.

A spokeswoman said: “All ‘high risk’ asbestos containing materials have now been removed from schools. There are currently no schools which urgently need asbestos removed.”

She added: “Due to the age and construction of many of the buildings, complete asbestos removal from all schools is neither physically nor financially feasible.”

The board said that no legal action has been taken against the board relating to illness/diseases/death caused by asbestos.

WESTERN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD:

A spokeswoman confirmed that 170 primary schools, 30 post-primary schools, seven nursery schools and five special schools contain asbestos. There are no materials in the schools rated as being in the Health and Safety Executive’s “high risk” category. None contain crocidolite.

She continued: “The board has advised the Department of Education that an estimated cost for the removal of all asbestos from schools would be £480,000.

“Currently any costs associated with asbestos removal is treated as high priority and funded from the current maintenance budget.

“As part of the board’s Asbestos Management Plan, asbestos is continued to be managed in-house by qualified board officers.”

The spokeswoman also said that no one had been exposed to asbestos during surveying, maintenance or removal of asbestos and no legal action regarding this has been taken against the board.

SOUTHERN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD:

The board needs £510,000 to pay for asbestos work in schools.

A total of 264 schools within the board area currently contain asbestos. The breakdown is 13 grammars/senior highs, 32 secondary schools, 202 primaries, 13 nursery schools, one special school and three EOTAS (education other than at school) centres.

All of the schools have asbestos management plans in place and all high risk asbestos has been removed.

A board spokeswoman said that no-one has been exposed to asbestos during surveying, maintenance or removal of asbestos and no legal action has been taken against the board relating to this.

An SELB spokesman said: “With regard to asbestos in schools or other board premises, the SELB operates under clear and approved official guidelines which reflect best practice in the area and undertakes whatever work is required in this context.

“All asbestos still in existence in board premises, including schools, is carefully and systematically managed. It is well documented and its condition regularly reviewed under an asbestos management plan.”