Checks on how schools outside of local authority control are managing asbestos have revealed that most have adequate arrangements in place – though 17 per cent fell below acceptable standards in relation to management procedures.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspected a random sample of 164 independent, voluntary aided and foundation schools and academies between November 2010 and June 2011. It served notices on 28 schools requiring them to improve arrangements for managing asbestos, and provided informal advice to a further 110.

Enforcement action was taken over failures such as training staff and producing written management plans, rather than because staff or pupils were considered at significant risk of exposure.

Compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2006) in England, Scotland and Wales was broadly similar to that found in a survey and inspection programme involving local authority-controlled schools in 2009/10.

Asbestos, which is in good condition and remains undamaged and undisturbed does not pose any significant risk to health if it is managed in compliance with the legal requirements and according to HSE’s published guidance.

Geoff Cox, the Head of HSE’s public services sector, said:

“Most schools were able to demonstrate good levels of awareness and compliance with the asbestos regulations and that’s encouraging, but this inspection initiative did highlight that there is still confusion in some schools over roles and responsibilities.

“We took action where schools had fallen below acceptable standards and we are working across the education sector to raise awareness and find ways to make it clearer for schools to understand their legal responsibilities.

“It is important to stress that asbestos which is properly managed, remains undamaged and is not disturbed is not a cause for concern. Those most at risk of disturbing asbestos are tradesmen or general maintenance workers so it is essential they know where asbestos is and that their work is carefully planned and managed.”