CWMCARN ASBESTOS SCHOOL: Contractor suggested demolishing school

DEMOLITION: Cwmcarn High School

DEMOLITION: Cwmcarn High School

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

A SPECIALIST contractor advised Caerphilly council to look at demolishing Cwmcarn High School after asbestos concerns led to the school’s closure last week.

The council said the contractor advised closing the school immediately on October 12 because of the “continued risk of exposure to asbestos fibres”.

It also advised the council to consider demolishing Cwmcarn High School because of the costs of continuing to operate without further risk of exposure.

The council admitted the school had been exposed to asbestos fibres and said it decided to close the school last week so it could assess and reduce any possible further exposure.

Cwmcarn Leisure Centre, which is connected to the school, has also been closed as a precaution while investigations are carried out.

The council said asbestos is present in the whole of Cwmcarn High School apart from the music and drama block C and the languages wing.

It said the majority of the asbestos is “sealed and in good condition” but that some debris was discovered in voids and some asbestos was unsealed or damaged.

The council said the main type of asbestos in the school contains Amosite which is commonly known as ‘brown’ asbestos which “poses a greater risk than other types of asbestos”.

But the council said the health risk from potential exposure to pupils and staff at the school is “low, albeit slightly elevated”.

Asbestos surveys have been carried out at the school since 2003 with regulations requiring visual surveys but not ceiling and roof voids.

Legal requirements for asbestos surveying increased in 2006 and again this year leading to more detailed surveys now being required.

Caerphilly council said it expects the affected buildings at Cwmcarn High to be closed “for the foreseeable future”.
 

Comments (4)

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9:03am Fri 19 Oct 12

Moulder says...

Not enough information is being submitted about the findings regarding levels of Asbestos... It will be interesting to find out whether the ( specialist contractor) recommending the demolition of the school- be the winning work party carrying out the above mentioned!!!
Not enough information is being submitted about the findings regarding levels of Asbestos... It will be interesting to find out whether the ( specialist contractor) recommending the demolition of the school- be the winning work party carrying out the above mentioned!!! Moulder
  • Score: 0

10:08am Fri 19 Oct 12

Gareth says...

So let me get this right: the school identified a problem that could severely affect, or even kill, pupils and staff, so took an immediate decision to close the school.

What do they get for this? A pat on the back for quick thinking? A 'thank you so much' for putting my son/daughter's safety above everything else?

Uh, no.

"I'm furious that they wouldn't give my child a copy of the asbestos register." "I'm furious that I won't be able to pay for my child's resits." "I'm furious about something or other."

So it's taken them a bit more time to get the next stages in order, and they haven't dedicated all their time to answer every question that has resulted. So what? Your kids are safe. What's more important than that?

By the sounds of many comments on this story over the past weeks, I can't help but get the impression that parents would have preferred them to keep the school open until a specific communications strategy was devised and put into action.

We just love to point fingers and blame someone, don't we.
So let me get this right: the school identified a problem that could severely affect, or even kill, pupils and staff, so took an immediate decision to close the school. What do they get for this? A pat on the back for quick thinking? A 'thank you so much' for putting my son/daughter's safety above everything else? Uh, no. "I'm furious that they wouldn't give my child a copy of the asbestos register." "I'm furious that I won't be able to pay for my child's resits." "I'm furious about something or other." So it's taken them a bit more time to get the next stages in order, and they haven't dedicated all their time to answer every question that has resulted. So what? Your kids are safe. What's more important than that? By the sounds of many comments on this story over the past weeks, I can't help but get the impression that parents would have preferred them to keep the school open until a specific communications strategy was devised and put into action. We just love to point fingers and blame someone, don't we. Gareth
  • Score: 0

10:08am Fri 19 Oct 12

Gareth says...

So let me get this right: the school identified a problem that could severely affect, or even kill, pupils and staff, so took an immediate decision to close the school.

What do they get for this? A pat on the back for quick thinking? A 'thank you so much' for putting my son/daughter's safety above everything else?

Uh, no.

"I'm furious that they wouldn't give my child a copy of the asbestos register." "I'm furious that I won't be able to pay for my child's resits." "I'm furious about something or other."

So it's taken them a bit more time to get the next stages in order, and they haven't dedicated all their time to answer every question that has resulted. So what? Your kids are safe. What's more important than that?

By the sounds of many comments on this story over the past weeks, I can't help but get the impression that parents would have preferred them to keep the school open until a specific communications strategy was devised and put into action.

We just love to point fingers and blame someone, don't we.
So let me get this right: the school identified a problem that could severely affect, or even kill, pupils and staff, so took an immediate decision to close the school. What do they get for this? A pat on the back for quick thinking? A 'thank you so much' for putting my son/daughter's safety above everything else? Uh, no. "I'm furious that they wouldn't give my child a copy of the asbestos register." "I'm furious that I won't be able to pay for my child's resits." "I'm furious about something or other." So it's taken them a bit more time to get the next stages in order, and they haven't dedicated all their time to answer every question that has resulted. So what? Your kids are safe. What's more important than that? By the sounds of many comments on this story over the past weeks, I can't help but get the impression that parents would have preferred them to keep the school open until a specific communications strategy was devised and put into action. We just love to point fingers and blame someone, don't we. Gareth
  • Score: 0

9:15pm Sun 21 Oct 12

Careful says...

It is vital for pupil and staff welfare and safety that before any conclusions are drawn by the Minister regarding the current status of asbestos levels in schools in Wales that the list/database that it has been compiled (see Argus Article dated 16 October) on a "level playing field". Whilst there has been an obligation in place since 2003 to ensure that each non-domestic building (read school) has an asbestos survey, it is likely that each school's "current" survey will have been undertaken at materially different times to others. The standards for asbestos surveying have tightened since 2003, once in 2006 and again just recently in April 2012. It is certain that the vast majority of these school surveys being submitted to Welsh Government by Councils will have been undertaken BEFORE the April 2012 regs were put in place, and may well be incomparable, and any conclusions as to how one school's "asbestos levels" compared to another would be dangerous and at best unreliable. The original, now ten-year old, 2002 regs state that any area of the premises not accessed or inspected MUST be recorded (note it does not insist that all areas of the buildings be surveyed e.g. roofs, voids, boiler rooms, etc). The regs add that any such area MUST be ASSUMED to contain asbestos unless there is STRONG EVIDENCE that they do not. Therefore, if a roof/ceiling void is not surveyed positively for ACM's (Asbestos Containing Materials) then the report should say that this is the case and also that it should therefore be ASSUMED that this area/location contains asbestos. The 2012 (including Survey Guidance) regs tighten obligations further by specifying that "Survey thoroughness is important" and therefore roofs, voids and other (previously omitted areas: my words) areas should be surveyed as far as is reasonably practicable. The 2012 regs also importantly break the surveys into two categories: (i) management surveys (routine obligation on duty holder to manage risk) and (ii) refurbishment and demolition surveys. The latter survey "will be fully intrusive and involve destructive inspection, as necessary, to gain access to all areas, including those that may be difficult to reach". A refurbishment and demolition survey is MANDATORY "before any refurbishment or demolition work is carried out.". The Council in its correspondence with parents has used the words "structural survey". As we know that maintenance work was being proposed at Cwmcarn High School, it is almost certain that the survey undertaken had to be (under 2012 regs) performed to the highest and most stringent level ie. the refurbishment and demolition type. This survey will have been undertaken to the highest levels under current legislation and "It is a disruptive and fully intrusive survey which may need to penetrate all parts of the building structure. Aggressive inspection techniques will be needed to lift carpets and tiles,break through walls, ceilings, cladding and partitions, and open up floors. In these situations, controls should be put in place to prevent the spread of debris, which may include asbestos.". It is therefore worth noting that Cwmcarn High School's report has therefore been carried out to the highest level, and judgements have been taken based on the latest and most up-to-date threshold data for asbestos. IT IS UNLIKELY THAT MANY OF THE OTHER SCHOOLS IN WALES (unless they have had refurbishment works undertaken AFTER April 2012) WILL CURRENTLY POSSESS AN ASBESTOS REPORT THAT HAS BEEN UNDERTAKEN TO SUCH A THOROUGH AND UP-TO-DATE SPECIFICATION. It is therefore not unfair to reasonably conclude that if all Welsh schools built before 2000 were to be surveyed on a similar and consistent basis, to that experienced by Cwmcarn High, then it is probable that the problem may be shared more widely than is presently the case! Until this is done (ie. the level playing field is restored) NOBODY can safely and justifiably conclude just how safe a learning environment our children are currently subjected to. Cwmcarn High is not unique and this unfortunate situation may just be the "tip of the iceberg" for Schools in Wales (and for that matter the UK). The point I am trying to make is that Cwmcarn High is not a "bad" school for having asbestos detected in one of its buildings. The current leadership team had no say in its construction, and therefore could be argued as being victims (along with their pupils, including my children) of circumstance. What they do have control over is the QUALITY OF LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND ACHIEVEMENT FOR LEARNERS. Regarding this they clearly demonstrate sustained success with the significantly limited resources they receive. The Council has undertaken to "identify alternative arrangements" by 5 November. Let's hope the Council in arriving at its decision, equally values maintaining the educational welfare and attainment of its pupils, by keeping the School (Governors, Staff and Learners, not necessarily its Buildings) together, as well as their health and well-being, because after all, is the environment they currently occupy that much worse than any other school (i.e. those built before 2000) in Wales, now or at any time in the future? I am not condoning asbestos in any way, shape or form - it's a sad fact of life that we all probably encounter asbestos fibres every day at work, in our environment and also in our homes to different levels. Cwmcarn High should not be victimised as a "pariah" over this. Positive and innovative solutions for the continued academic success and well-being of this School (as a human entity) must be at the forefront of each Decision-maker's mind, when 5 November eventually arrives. PLEASE DO NOT FORGET OR UNDERVALUE THIS!
It is vital for pupil and staff welfare and safety that before any conclusions are drawn by the Minister regarding the current status of asbestos levels in schools in Wales that the list/database that it has been compiled (see Argus Article dated 16 October) on a "level playing field". Whilst there has been an obligation in place since 2003 to ensure that each non-domestic building (read school) has an asbestos survey, it is likely that each school's "current" survey will have been undertaken at materially different times to others. The standards for asbestos surveying have tightened since 2003, once in 2006 and again just recently in April 2012. It is certain that the vast majority of these school surveys being submitted to Welsh Government by Councils will have been undertaken BEFORE the April 2012 regs were put in place, and may well be incomparable, and any conclusions as to how one school's "asbestos levels" compared to another would be dangerous and at best unreliable. The original, now ten-year old, 2002 regs state that any area of the premises not accessed or inspected MUST be recorded (note it does not insist that all areas of the buildings be surveyed e.g. roofs, voids, boiler rooms, etc). The regs add that any such area MUST be ASSUMED to contain asbestos unless there is STRONG EVIDENCE that they do not. Therefore, if a roof/ceiling void is not surveyed positively for ACM's (Asbestos Containing Materials) then the report should say that this is the case and also that it should therefore be ASSUMED that this area/location contains asbestos. The 2012 (including Survey Guidance) regs tighten obligations further by specifying that "Survey thoroughness is important" and therefore roofs, voids and other (previously omitted areas: my words) areas should be surveyed as far as is reasonably practicable. The 2012 regs also importantly break the surveys into two categories: (i) management surveys (routine obligation on duty holder to manage risk) and (ii) refurbishment and demolition surveys. The latter survey "will be fully intrusive and involve destructive inspection, as necessary, to gain access to all areas, including those that may be difficult to reach". A refurbishment and demolition survey is MANDATORY "before any refurbishment or demolition work is carried out.". The Council in its correspondence with parents has used the words "structural survey". As we know that maintenance work was being proposed at Cwmcarn High School, it is almost certain that the survey undertaken had to be (under 2012 regs) performed to the highest and most stringent level ie. the refurbishment and demolition type. This survey will have been undertaken to the highest levels under current legislation and "It is a disruptive and fully intrusive survey which may need to penetrate all parts of the building structure. Aggressive inspection techniques will be needed to lift carpets and tiles,break through walls, ceilings, cladding and partitions, and open up floors. In these situations, controls should be put in place to prevent the spread of debris, which may include asbestos.". It is therefore worth noting that Cwmcarn High School's report has therefore been carried out to the highest level, and judgements have been taken based on the latest and most up-to-date threshold data for asbestos. IT IS UNLIKELY THAT MANY OF THE OTHER SCHOOLS IN WALES (unless they have had refurbishment works undertaken AFTER April 2012) WILL CURRENTLY POSSESS AN ASBESTOS REPORT THAT HAS BEEN UNDERTAKEN TO SUCH A THOROUGH AND UP-TO-DATE SPECIFICATION. It is therefore not unfair to reasonably conclude that if all Welsh schools built before 2000 were to be surveyed on a similar and consistent basis, to that experienced by Cwmcarn High, then it is probable that the problem may be shared more widely than is presently the case! Until this is done (ie. the level playing field is restored) NOBODY can safely and justifiably conclude just how safe a learning environment our children are currently subjected to. Cwmcarn High is not unique and this unfortunate situation may just be the "tip of the iceberg" for Schools in Wales (and for that matter the UK). The point I am trying to make is that Cwmcarn High is not a "bad" school for having asbestos detected in one of its buildings. The current leadership team had no say in its construction, and therefore could be argued as being victims (along with their pupils, including my children) of circumstance. What they do have control over is the QUALITY OF LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND ACHIEVEMENT FOR LEARNERS. Regarding this they clearly demonstrate sustained success with the significantly limited resources they receive. The Council has undertaken to "identify alternative arrangements" by 5 November. Let's hope the Council in arriving at its decision, equally values maintaining the educational welfare and attainment of its pupils, by keeping the School (Governors, Staff and Learners, not necessarily its Buildings) together, as well as their health and well-being, because after all, is the environment they currently occupy that much worse than any other school (i.e. those built before 2000) in Wales, now or at any time in the future? I am not condoning asbestos in any way, shape or form - it's a sad fact of life that we all probably encounter asbestos fibres every day at work, in our environment and also in our homes to different levels. Cwmcarn High should not be victimised as a "pariah" over this. Positive and innovative solutions for the continued academic success and well-being of this School (as a human entity) must be at the forefront of each Decision-maker's mind, when 5 November eventually arrives. PLEASE DO NOT FORGET OR UNDERVALUE THIS! Careful
  • Score: 0

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