Two thirds of Sunderland schools contain asbestos

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ASBESTOS is present in more than 65 per cent of schools in Sunderland, the Echo can reveal today.

Seventy nine out of the city’s 117 school buildings, including nurseries, contain the potentially deadly material.

Now concerns have been raised that delays to millions of pounds of funding, earmarked to rebuild many schools, is only increasing the risk of exposure to staff and pupils.

Many of Wearside’s school buildings, built in the mid 20th Century, have exceeded their original life-expectancy but are still being used to capacity.

The fear is that as the condition of these buildings continues to deteriorate so does the condition of the asbestos contained within them.

Part of Hetton School in Sunderland is currently closed after adverse weather conditions caused tiles in the roof to shift, disturbing the asbestos.

The school is among a number in the city due a share of a multimillion pound cash pot under the Government’s Priority Schools Building programme. But delays in its rebuild mean it will not receive the cash until 2015/16 at the earliest.

Of the schools on the Asbestos Register, 63 per cent are maintained by Sunderland City Council. The remaining are voluntary aided schools or academies where asbestos management is the responsibility of the governing bodies.

Many city schools are among the 14,210 built across the UK between 1945 and 1975. Some of these buildings contained a large amount of amosite, commonly referred to as “brown” asbestos and sometimes “gray” asbestos - one of the more hazardous forms of the material.

Undisturbed, and properly managed, asbestos is not deemed to be a risk. However, the continuing deterioration of many buildings has triggered alarm bells about potential exposure.

If asbestos is damaged then the fibres can be released and breathed in. A large exposure can cause mesothelioma.

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has already raised concerns about asbestos problems at Hetton School in Parliament.

She said today: “Too often our teachers are having to maintain schools rather than teach in them.

“Asbestos can be safely managed, but it does place additional burdens on school staff. It’s increasingly frustrating to teachers, pupils and parents that the government’s plans to rebuild schools like Hetton have failed to gain financial backing from the private sector.

“Michael Gove needs to lay out how his department will get the financing in place to rebuild those schools in greatest need.”

Michael Lees from the campaign group Asbestos in Schools was among those attending a committee meeting in Parliament last week to discuss the issue of asbestos.

Michael’s wife Gina was a school teacher, who died from mesothelioma, the form of cancer developed from exposure to asbestos. She was just 51 when she died 12 years ago.

Mr Lees said: “Many schools built when asbestos was commonly used were not designed to last the length of time they have.

“Those built during that period are now rapidly deteriorating and, as the condition of the school deteriorates, so does the condition of the asbestos in them.

“If the school has not been well maintained then a parent has every right to be concerned about their child.

“We don’t want to panic parents but they should be aware of the type and condition of asbestos in their child’s school.

“We are also concerned about asbestos in schools that have been turned into academies.

“Once they become academies, the governing body of the school, rather than the local authority, is responsible for the management of asbestos. However, many governing bodies are not trained to deal with this type of thing, or are even aware they have asbestos in the building to begin with.

Councillor Pat Smith, from Children’s Services at Sunderland City Council, said: Schools in Sunderland are subject to regularly condition monitoring as required by the Health and Safety Executive and council policy. Any risks are immediately identified and dealt with.

“These condition monitoring and management systems comply with current health and safety legislation, guidance and advice.

“Asbestos was a common building material in the past and is present in many public and private buildings. If asbestos is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed it is often safer to leave it in place.

“Sunderland City Council is committed to the safety of pupils, staff and all users of our school buildings.”

Asbestos campaigners are now calling for a national school strategy to deal with the problem.

Schools list

Nursery schools


Hetton Nursery

Hylton Red House Nursery

Houghton Nursery

Oxclose Nursery

Usworth Colliery Nursery.

Primary Schools


Albany Primary School

Barnes Infants School

Barnes Junior School

Barnwell Primary School

Bernard Gilpin Primary School

Bexhill Primary School

Biddick Primary School

Bishop Harland Primary School

Blackfell Primary School

Broadway Junior School

Burnside Primary School

Dame Dorothy Primary

Diamond Hall Infant School

East Herrington Primary School

East Rainton Primary

English Martyrs RC Primary

Eppleton Primary School

Farringdon Primary School

Fulwell Infants School

Fulwell Junior School

Gillas Lane Primary

Grange Park Primary

Grindon Infants School

Hastings Hill Primary School

Hetton Primary School

Hill View Infants School

Hill View Juniors School

Holley Park Primary

Hylton Castle Primary

Hylton Redhouse Primary

JFK Primary

Lambton Primary

Mill Hill Primary

New Penshaw Primary

New Silksworth infants

New Silksworth Juniors

Our Lady Queen of Peace

Oxclose Village Primary

Plains Farm Primary

Redby primary

Richard Avenue Primary

Seaburn Dene Primary

Shiney Row Primary

Springwell Village Primary

St Annes RC Primary

St Bedes RC Primary

St Cuthberts RC Primary

St John Bosco RC Primary

St John Boste RC Primary

St Josephs Primary (Washington)

St Leonards RC Primary

St Marys RC Primary

Thorney Close Primary

Town End Primary

Usworth Colliery Primary

Usworth Grange Primary

Wessington Primary

Willowfields Primary

Secondary Schools


Biddick School

Farringdon School

Hetton School

Houghton Keiper

Monkwearmouth School

Southmoor School

St Aidans School

St Anthonys School

St Robert of Newminster

Thornhill School

Special schools


Barbara Priestman School

Maplewood School (Old one)

Springwell Dene School

Sunningdale school

Tudor Grove Centre