The Department started to collect data on asbestos management in schools in 2016. All state-funded schools in England were invited to participate in the voluntary data collection and 25% responded. The findings were published in a report on GOV.UK in February 2017, but the data collection did not include information about how much asbestos had been removed from the school estate.
The Department launched a second data collection, the Asbestos Management Assurance Process, in March 2018, to help develop a more comprehensive understanding of asbestos management in the school estate which does include a question on asbestos removal. This data collection has just closed and responses are being analysed. The Department intends to publish the findings from this report in spring 2019.
To help local authorities, governing bodies and academy trusts to meet their legal duties and manage asbestos effectively, the Department refers to advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In February 2017, the Department also published ‘Asbestos Management in Schools’ guidance. The HSE advice is clear that if asbestos is unlikely to be damaged or disturbed, then it is best managed in situ. Although, the Department is also clear that when asbestos does pose a risk to safety and cannot be effectively managed in situ, it should be removed.
Since 2015, the Department has allocated £6 billion to those responsible for school buildings and for essential maintenance and improvements, including removing or encapsulating asbestos when it is the safest course of action to do so. In addition, through the Priority School Building Programme, the Department is rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition in over 500 schools across the country. Asbestos was a factor in selecting buildings for the programme.