A claim was recently settled on behalf of an electrician who had developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos whilst working in school buildings in the 1960s and 1970s.

The buildings were predominantly SCOLA system or pre-fabricated buildings. These were factory built and site assembled buildings designed to be put together swiftly and easily with a minimal amount of tradesmen on site. There are numerous types of system built buildings, with CLASP being another type. In the 1960s and 1970s around half of school buildings erected were system type.

Hampshire has the highest number of the SCOLA buildings in the country[1]. These system buildings contain asbestos ceiling tiles and asbestos fireproofing.

Around 2000 of these buildings were constructed in the country between 1961 and 1990. They were developed by Hampshire Property Services Department . During this time 40% of schools in Hampshire were of SCOLA construction, 25% of the national total. The expected lifespan of the buildings was 25 years. They were built to accommodate London overspills of population. In total, Hampshire had 449 SCOLA buildings. There has been no removal programme to date.

As the buildings were designed with short life spans in mind, they are not high quality, yet many still remain with asbestos still present in them. Needless to say most have exceeded their life span. 

There are a growing number of teachers being diagnosed with mesothelioma. An incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust. Much of this exposure may have already taken place. But with 20% of schools still not upholding their duties to manage their asbestos laden buildings in line with Government guidance, there is a continued risk of teachers and pupils being exposed.[2]

Because asbestos is still present in 75% of schools it’s still a clear and present danger for all school workers. In particular pupils who we know are more susceptible if exposed to asbestos at an early age.  

In 2009, the HSE and DCSF (now the Department for Education) jointly administered an online survey on asbestos management covering system built schools. The questionnaire was aimed at all 152 local authorities (LAs) with education departments in England, where they had control over system built schools or other childcare settings.

In summary, the online responses prompted a review of the asbestos management procedures in a number of authorities:

45 LAs were selected for inspection (where they had either not responded to the questionnaire or the response indicated the need for further verification to clarify their management arrangements);

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety in 2012 made six recommendations for dealing with asbestos in schools. The first of which was the phased removal of asbestos from all schools. Priority was given to those schools where asbestos is considered to be the most dangerous or damaged.[4]

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) which was set up by trade unions representing teachers and support staff has been calling for inspections of school premises and the funding of a removal programme for over a decade.

Despite this, the HSE announced in July 2022 that it would be commencing a programme of inspections of primary and secondary schools from September 2022.[5] A removal programme should be funded as soon as possible.

[1] Release of asbestos Fibres in System Built Schools, M Lees, 20 February 2008;

[2] HSE Inspection Findings: Asbestos management in Local Authority school system buildings 2009/10

[3] HSE Inspection Findings: Asbestos management in Local Authority school system buildings 2009/10

[4] All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety; Asbestos in Schools; the need for action

[5]HSE ebulletin issued 14 July 2022