THE Welsh education minister says his department is writing to all local authorities about asbestos in schools following the closure of Cwmcarn High School.

In response to a urgent question from Gwyn Price, AM for Islwyn, Leighton Andrews said that the health and safety of pupils and staff is of paramount importance.

He said Public Health Wales (PHW) is providing a health based risk assessment today. The authority is looking at a number of options to accommodate the pupils as a priority.

"We are going to seek further information from local authorities on a national basis and we expect to have that over the next fortnight," he said.

Officials in Mr Andrews department had been in touch with Caerphilly council since Friday and the director of children and young people and schools was to attend an emergency planning meeting at 4.30pm.

He said: "The situation is a difficult one. I commend CCBC for taking swift action on Friday when they discovered the problem but there are still some issues for which we wait a report from PHW."

William Graham, AM for South Wales East, said the Tories support a central register in Wales for where asbestos is present in Wales.

Mr Andrews responded that there was a clear duty to local authorities to survey buildings annually and that surveys in Caerphilly county were being carried out regularly.

He said he has asked director of schools to write to all local authorities for a response by Friday week on the situation in regard to asbestos in their own schools.

He said councils have to have asbestos management plans in place.

Mohammad Asghar, Tory AM for South Wales East, said it had been reported that Caerphilly council knew about asbestos being present in Cwmcarn High School and had removed asbestos from the premises last summer, and was aware of asbestos being present in 30 other schools.

He asked children should not miss out on their studies. He asked: "How are you going to tackle this?

"Have you got the funding to repair that large number of schools? Mr Andrews replied the question was whether the situation in a school was safe or not.

"We know that many schools in Wales will have asbestos present," he said.

Meanwhile Chris Evans MP for Islwyn, said: "Obviously the key thing at the moment is health and safety and the after that it's making sure that nobody's education is affected particularly those who are going to be sitting exams. "We've got to be positive, it is only a temporary measure and let's just hope a resolution can be found as soon as possible. "I think the important thing is that we support the Council and the school community."