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Asbestos issue closes classroom at Harrogate school

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The collapse of a ceiling containing asbestos resulted in a classroom being closed for eight months at a primary school in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The incident occurred in a reception classroom at Killinghall Primary School in September 2013 but, fortunately, no children were present at the time.

All the furniture and teaching equipment was lost due to the risk of asbestos contamination and a temporary classroom had to be set up in a Portakabin in the playground.

The subsequent clean-up operation also saw asbestos decontamination units housed in the school playground for several months, leaving the children with limited space in which to play.

North Yorkshire County Council used the opportunity to undertake some improvement work, meaning the classroom did not reopen until April 2014.

Headteacher Sarah Bassitt told the Harrogate Advertiser the refurbishment was a “fantastic job”, but admitted the whole incident had been disruptive.

“When the ceiling fell down none of the children were in there and it was before school, but as soon as we realised it was asbestos we made the call to close the school,” she explained.

“Health and safety came down and we closed the school on the Friday and reopened on the Monday, but the whole area was cordoned off.

“The reception classroom was closed but it affected all the kids because they lost a lot of their playground too.”

Asbestos is believed to be present in the majority of British schools, as the substance was used extensively in the construction of public buildings before a ban was implemented in 1999.

It is estimated that more than 140 teachers have died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in the past ten years, while it is known that people exposed to asbestos during childhood have a greater risk of developing the disease than those who are exposed to it as adults.

The Department for Education is currently considering responses to a review of its asbestos management for schools policy, following calls for the widespread removal of asbestos from British schools.

For information about licensed asbestos removal services, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 27th May 2014