Scandal of almost 300 British teachers who’ve died from exposure to asbestos

Scandal of almost 300 British teachers who’ve died from exposure to asbestos

 

Hundreds of teachers have died of an illness related to asbestos exposure over the past 15 years.

Lung cancer mesothelioma – caused by inhaling fibres from the now banned building material – has claimed 292 since 2005, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Now, a teachers’ leader is urging a life-saving scheme to remove it from all the UK’s 32,770 schools.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The problem of asbestos in education buildings must not be forgotten.

“On average, a teacher has died of asbestos-related disease every fortnight over the past 15 years.

This death toll will continue until the ­Government develops a planned and costed programme for its removal from ­educational buildings.”

Among the victims of asbestos – known as the silent killer due to the length of time it can take for its illnesses to appear – was primary teacher Sue Stephens, 68. She had taught at schools in Buckinghamshire and died in 2016.

A coroner decided her mesothelioma – a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs – had probably been caused by building work at one of the sites.

And teacher Elizabeth Belt died from the disease in 2015, aged 68, after spending decades pinning pupils’ art to asbestos notice boards in Lincolnshire schools.

After Elizabeth’s inquest, her daughter Charlotte said: “It is a horrible, horrible disease.

“There is obviously a generation that worked with her in the same places.

“I suppose we are all angry but I just think our sadness outweighs it.”

In the decade to 2016, councils paid £10million in compensation to people who developed asbestos-related illnesses following exposure in schools.

Since 2015, the Government has allocated £7.4billion for essential maintenance in schools, including asbestos removal. And there are around 32,770 schools in the UK, which means each school has had £45,163.36 a year to spend in the past five years.

But the cost of removing asbestos from a garage ceiling alone is around £1,200 – meaning the price for larger areas inside schools would be huge.

The Department for Education said: “We take the safety of our children and those who work with them seriously. We expect all local authorities and academy trusts to have robust plans in place to manage asbestos in school buildings effectively.

“We have committed £23billion since 2016-17 to deliver new school places, rebuild or refurbish buildings in the worst condition and deliver thousands of condition projects across the school estate, including removing asbestos when it is the safest course of action.”

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