Every school in Stoke-on-Trent is to be tested for asbestos after an academy was closed down for health and safety reasons. The firm maintaining school buildings in the Potteries has demanded the inspections after concerns the city council’s records are incomplete.
It follows the closure of Blurton’s Sutherland Primary Academy last year after ‘sprayed asbestos’ started bubbling and cracking on the walls.
A Department of Education report has also revealed 75 per cent of state schools are likely to contain asbestos. Now Stoke-on-Trent City Council is spending up to £146,000 to carry out the surveys at all 88 schools. A council report states:
“Failure to identify asbestos-containing materials could put the health of pupils, teaching staff and the public at risk of asbestos-related diseases.
This work will reduce the risk to those who may be exposed to asbestos fibres.”
Headteacher and parents have welcomed plans and experts have drawn up a priority list for the school inspections from April. The top priority schools include Birches Head and Trentham High Schools, Abbey Hulton Primary School and Forest Park Primary School.
The survey comes as it is revealed staff and pupils at Sutherland Primary Academy are unlikely to return to their Blurton home until September. It was triggered by a letter from Transform Schools, which maintains Stoke-on-Trent’s school buildings.
In the letter, project director Craig Fullwood said:
“We have raised issues with the council about the asbestos registers, including multiple versions of asbestos registers and out-of-date registers.
We require further assurances that the council has plans to proactively survey and monitor the condition of asbestos across the schools’ estate in accordance with the required legislation.”
Burnwood Nursery School, in Chell Heath, will be one of the first buildings to be tested. Operations leader Grahame Colclough said:
“Part of my role is managing the school premises and asbestos is a big thing. This survey is definitely welcomed and anything to show our buildings are safe for the children and staff is a positive thing.”
Maple Court Academy, in Bentilee, is within the fourth phase of the works at a cost of £2,000. Principal Jonathan Baddeley said:
“In light of the difficulties at Sutherland Primary Academy, it is essential the city council gets a tight grasp of schools which could be suspect to high amounts of asbestos.
It is imperative we know where the risks are and have regular checks to ensure the children and staff are safe.”
Parents at one school have backed the survey. Their children attend Sneyd Green Primary School which will be surveyed within months. Nikki Cuthbertson, aged 25, of Smallthorne, who has two children at the school, said:
“Asbestos is dangerous. It is a good idea to be cautious. It is better to be safe than sorry. This will make sure our children are safe.”
Dad-of-one Steven Pritchard, aged 45, of Windermere Street, Cobridge, said:
“This survey is well worth doing. If signs of damage are found then the council can take appropriate action.”
The surveys are needed to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Councillor Jack Brereton, cabinet member for regeneration, said:
“It is extremely important our school buildings remain safe and any risks of asbestos are monitored effectively.”