Teacher with asbestos-related cancer thinks time at Sevenoaks school is to blame

A specialist law firm is investigating whether asbestos at Sevenoaks School is responsible for a former teacher’s cancer.

Michael Polley, 65, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January, taught at the High Street school between 1977 and 1981.

He believes this is due to being exposed to toxic dust during this time – a claim the school denies. Mr Folley, now of Taunton, has appointed mesothelioma claims specialist Hugh James to investigate. He said:
“The diagnosis came as a complete shock. I never thought, having spent my career working as a teacher, I would develop a terminal asbestos-related illness.

It has been devastating for my whole family and at a time when my wife and I should be looking forward to a long retirement together, we are instead faced with this.”

The main classroom where Mr Polley taught was based in a school building known as the Manor House.  Hugh James claims it was confirmed this building contained asbestos in a 2006 specialist survey undertaken at the school.

Similarly, asbestos surveys identified the presence of asbestos in other school buildings. Mr Polley added:

“Although my employment at the school was fairly brief, there were a lot of works carried out during my time there. In particular, I remember a building known as School House having a significant refurbishment done.

“I would walk right past these works every day as I made my way into the school to my classroom. The area was incredibly dusty but we were never informed about any potentially harmful materials being disrupted.”

‘No risk’

Responding to the claims a Sevenoaks School spokesman said:

“Although Mr Polley left the school almost 35 years ago, on first hearing about his serious illness, the school undertook a review into the conditions during the short time he taught at the school.

We managed to speak with a member of staff who was closely involved in the maintenance of the school at that time. He has indicated that the location of asbestos was such that there was no risk to either pupils or teaching staff.

While we are very sorry to hear about Mr Polley’s serious illness, we do not believe he would have been exposed to any asbestos dust or fibre during the course of his work at Sevenoaks School in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”

Solicitor Charlotte Perkins, who is representing Mr Polley, said 228 teachers across the UK had been diagnosed with mesothelioma since 1980. She added:

“Unfortunately, as a teacher who worked at the school for only a few years, Mr Polley’s knowledge about the school buildings itself is limited.

We are hoping that others working at the school with more knowledge about the fabric of the buildings and the works carried out at the school will come forward and shed further light on this.”

Mr Polley is urging anyone who has information about asbestos or works carried out at the school to contact Hugh James on 0808 231 6604.