The Department follows expert advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which states that as long as asbestos-containing materials are in good condition, well protected either by their position or physical protection, and are unlikely to be worked on, it is usually safer to manage them in place. Where that is not the case, the duty holder should have it removed, and the Department provides significant condition funding which can be used for this purpose.
Since 2015, the Department has allocated £11.3 billion to those responsible for school buildings for essential maintenance and improvements, including removal or encapsulation of asbestos when such is the safest course of action. This includes £1.8 billion committed for financial year 2021-22.
Through the Priority School Building Programme, the Department has been rebuilding or refurbishing buildings in the worst condition at over 500 schools across the country. My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced a new 10-year rebuilding programme for schools, which will replace poor condition buildings with modern, energy efficient designs. The Department has announced the first 50 schools to benefit from the programme, as part of a commitment to 500 projects over the next decade.
In July 2019, the Department published information from the Asbestos Management Assurance Process (AMAP) designed to understand the prevalence of asbestos in schools and how well it is managed. Of the 19,522 (88.4%) state-funded schools in England which participated, a total of 15,796 (80.9%) of participating schools stated some asbestos was present on their estate. The responses also suggested that there were no systemic failures in the management of asbestos in schools.
The Department takes the issue of asbestos in schools seriously, and is committed to supporting schools, local authorities and academy trusts to fulfil their duty to manage asbestos safely. We have taken significant steps in recent years to strengthen schools’ approach to managing asbestos. In addition to conducting the AMAP, the Department published updated guidance on effectively managing asbestos in schools in October 2020, working closely with HSE experts, union representatives and other sector representatives to do so.