15 February 2013>
Residents will be aware of the recent media coverage following the publication of a new report into asbestos at Cwmcarn High School. The coverage gives the impression that the asbestos risk at the school is lower than was first thought.
The Council is keen to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency, but we want to ensure that parents and staff are fully aware of all the facts relating to the ongoing issues at the Cwmcarn site.
The building is a pre-1960s construction and therefore contains large amounts of asbestos material. Also, the current general condition of the school is very poor (the school has a 'D Rating' according to the Welsh Government's School Condition Survey in 2010 and is in the worst condition of all schools in the county borough), so alongside the ongoing asbestos problems, there is also a considerable repair and maintenance backlog which needs to be addressed at the site.
With regard to the surveys that have been undertaken to date, it is important to note that there is inconsistency in the methodology used by the asbestos specialists involved in commissioning these reports. This has resulted in differing opinions about the levels of risk at the school. Despite this, the fact remains that there are large quantities of asbestos throughout the school building, including significant amounts of asbestos debris in the ceiling and roof voids as well as the heater cabinets.
Residents will recall that the findings of the original report by Santia resulted in the closure of the school due to an elevated risk posed by extensive asbestos debris within the school structure.
Separate to the ongoing HSE investigation into asbestos management at the school, a further report has been undertaken by HSL on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive.
The Council's position on this matter has been clear throughout. Our priority is the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the school and any increased risk is a matter for concern and is taken very seriously. Our decisive steps to close the school on an interim basis for further investigation to be undertaken back in October demonstrated our commitment to protect the whole school community.
In order to help clarify matters and explain the next steps, here is an outline of the current position:
- Santia Report – This was commissioned by the Council last year and led to the closure of the school. The findings were reported to Council where is was noted that the Health and Safety Executive agreed the Authority made the right decision in closing the school in light of the evidence.
- Ensafe Report – This was commissioned by the school leadership, but has not been released to date as the Council has concerns about its accuracy.
- HSL Report – This latest report into airborne fibres alone was commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive and undertaken by their agency, the Health and Safety Laboratory. The limited scope of this report only looked at airborne asbestos fibres after the school was closed.
- In order to move forward, the Council continues to work with the school leadership and is providing funding to the school for a new management survey, which will include an options appraisal for the future of the site. It is anticipated that this will be completed within the next few weeks.
- The Council has employed an independent expert who will now give an impartial view of all the reports. This will help the Council make decisions in the interest of the whole school community.
Once we have the results of the new management survey, a report will be presented to the Council with options for consideration. No decision about the re-occupation of the Cwmcarn site can be made until this options appraisal is fully considered.
As stated previously, our main priority remains and will continue to be the welfare and education of the children attending school at Cwmcarn and we will continue to work with the school leadership.
We hope residents find this information useful and we will, of course, provide further updates as the situation progresses.
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