On Sunday 26 June yet another teacher tragically died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Sue Stephens was a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire for almost 30 years. Her daughter, Lucie Stephens, is calling for the removal of asbestos from schools to be her legacy.
On Action Mesothelioma Day 2016 (last Friday), the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) called upon the Government to prioritise the removal of asbestos from all schools and colleges.
The continuing presence of asbestos in our schools is a scandal, especially as all of it is now old, and much of it deteriorating.
Around 86 per cent of schools contain asbestos and deaths from mesothelioma are increasing. In 2013, 17 teachers died of mesothelioma. The total number of support staff deaths is not known.
Of even greater concern, particularly to parents, is that children are at risk of developing mesothelioma in later life, because of exposure to asbestos at school. It is estimated that 200 – 300 former pupils are dying each year as adults because of exposure at school.
Commenting on the situation and the death of Sue Stephens, John McClean, Chair of JUAC and Secretariat of the Asbestos in Schools group said:
‘Tragically there has been yet another death resulting from asbestos exposure in schools. The continuing presence of asbestos in so many of our schools is a disgrace. Effective Government action to tackle this scourge is long overdue and our children and school staff deserve better.’
Kevin Courtney, NUT Acting General Secretary, 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 school children 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 Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), 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.’
JUAC is seeking to ensure the widest possible publicity for Lucie’s petition, which calls for the phased removal of all asbestos from schools by 2028. Click here to sign the petition.
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) was formed in 2010 and is a trade union campaigning committee comprising the 10 unions: Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL); National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); NASUWT; National Union of Teachers (NUT); Voice; plus the education sections of UNISON, Unite, UCATT and the GMB. The Group has the objective of making all UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos.
Contact: John McClean – Chair John.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Asbestos in Schools Group
The Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS) is a campaigning organisation with an overall aim of making schools safe from the dangers of asbestos. AiS is non-party political and is chaired by Rachel Reeves MP.
Contact: John McClean, Secretariat email@example.com