Calls for removal of asbestos from schools intensify after death of teacher

Sue Stephens, a primary teacher for three decades, has died of mesothelioma

Calls for the government to remove asbestos from all schools and colleges have been stepped up following the death of a teacher.

On Sunday, Sue Stephens, who was a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire for almost 30 years, died of the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.

Her daughter, Lucie Stephens, has launched a petition calling for the phased removal of asbestos from schools by 2028, which has already received thousands of signatures.

Today – Action Mesothelioma Day 2016 – the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is asking the government to prioritise the removal of asbestos from all schools and colleges.

A life cut short

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said: “Yet another teacher’s life has been tragically cut short by this dreadful, and entirely preventable, disease.

“Nothing can be done to put right past asbestos exposure, but we must do more to protect future generations of schoolchildren and staff.

“The government must now set out a long-term strategy for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said: “It’s scandalous that every year teachers and support staff are dying from asbestos related illnesses because they have been exposed to asbestos in school.

“The government must listen and start a phased removal of all asbestos in schools so that no more children or teachers are exposed to asbestos and risk dying from this entirely preventable disease.”

Buildings boost

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of children and staff in our schools – that’s why we are investing £23 billion in school buildings by 2021. This will help ensure asbestos is managed safely and that the amount in school buildings continues to reduce over time.

“Last year we published a comprehensive review of asbestos in schools and we are implementing its findings in full – we are continuing to work with the Health and Safety Executive and others on this issue to transform the way in which we collect information on asbestos to better our understanding.”

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