Asbestos Found in Some UK Schools

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. look into / lʊk ˈɪn tu / (phrasal) – to study a situation

    The research looked into the effects of air pollution on the environment.

  2. premises / ˈpreməsəz / (n) – an entire area of land

    Smoking is not allowed within office premises.

  3. compliance / kəmˈplaɪ əns / (n) – the act of following a rule

    The company is expecting compliance from its employees regarding the new dress code.

  4. susceptible / səˈsɛp tə bəl / (adj) – likely to be affected by something

    People who are often exposed to pollution are susceptible to lung cancer.

  5. take measures / teɪk ˈmɛʒ ər s / (idiom) – to do something about an issue

    The company has taken measures to fix problems on waste management.


Read the text below.

A study has revealed that asbestos is present in several schools in the United Kingdom.

In early 2016, the study looked into the asbestos management of over 5,500 schools. Among these schools, more than 4,000 reported the presence of asbestos within the school premises and over 1,000 schools admitted to non-compliance with asbestos regulations.

In addition, 114 schools were marked to have a “significant cause of concern” regarding asbestos exposure. However, these schools gave the assurance that they are handling the situation effectively.

Asbestos, a group of fiber-like naturally occurring minerals, is known to cause mesothelioma / ˌmɛz əˌθi liˈoʊ mə /, a cancer that forms along the lining around the heart, lungs, and abdomen. Even little exposure to asbestos can make a person susceptible to both mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The substance was used in construction as a fireproofing material until its dangers were discovered. Now, asbestos is suspected to be present in UK schools built between 1950 and 2000 because its use was not banned in the country until 1999. According to a report by the National Union of Teachers, 319 teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980. For every teacher who will die due to exposure to asbestos, nine children are expected to follow.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) issued new guidelines to address the non-compliance of some schools in managing the risks of asbestos. The guidelines include a reminder to avoid certain activities such as putting pushpins on walls in order to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Similarly, the Department for Education (DfE) is taking measures such as investing £23 billion to improve school buildings by 2021. The initiative will help guarantee the safe management of asbestos and the gradual reduction of the material in buildings.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What are possible ways to prevent children’s exposure to asbestos in schools?
• What should the schools do for the families of teachers who died from asbestos exposure?

Discussion B

• In your opinion, who should be held accountable if a child gets hurt in school?
• What are ways to make schools more compliant with safety regulations?