Asbestos still present at 32 Enfield schools, council reveals

FOI request reveals full list of borough schools where the hazardous material can still be found, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Daryl Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons
credit Daryl Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons

Buildings on 32 school sites owned by Enfield Council still contain asbestos, new data released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

The potentially deadly material, which was used in construction until it was banned in 1999, is not considered harmful when in large pieces and undamaged, but can lead to an incurable type of cancer if it is disturbed and the fibres are inhaled.

Concerns over the safety of school buildings have been mounting since the government revealed more than 170 schools around the country contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) – a lightweight form of concrete used from the 1950s to the mid-1990s that is at risk of collapse after its 30-year lifespan.

Three Enfield schools – St Ignatius’ College in Bulls Cross, Winchmore School in Winchmore Hill, and Ark John Keats Academy in Enfield Wash – are currently known to contain Raac.

Figures published by the Department for Education in 2019 revealed asbestos was present in four out of five schools in England. This has led to fears that construction work to make buildings containing Raac safe could be slowed down by the presence of asbestos.

All three types of asbestos are known as class one carcinogens, although blue and brown asbestos – which have been banned since 1985 – are the most dangerous. White asbestos was banned in 1999.

Before it was banned the substance was used in a wide range of construction materials, including insulation, boilers and pipes.

When asbestos-containing materials are intact, they pose little risk to health. But if they are damaged, fibres may be released and inhaled or swallowed.

Breathing in high concentrations of asbestos for long periods can lead to a condition called asbestosis – which can take decades to develop – and this in turn leads to an increased risk of cancer.

Asbestos causes mesothelioma – a cancer of the protective tissue that covering the lungs or the abdomen – as well as cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary. Breathing in lower concentrations of asbestos can cause other lung problems.

A report produced by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 former staff and pupils died from mesothelioma between 1980 and 2017 because they were exposed to amosite (brown) asbestos in their schools between the 1960s and 1980s.

The committee has called on the government to fund the phased removal of all asbestos in educational establishments by 2028.

In response to a request under the Freedom of information Act by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Enfield Council said most of the information it had gathered came from asbestos management surveys.

The council added: “This type of survey identifies and assesses asbestos that might be disturbed during normal occupation or foreseeable maintenance.

“Where asbestos is in good condition and not likely to be disturbed, it is left in place and properly managed. If asbestos is damaged and/or likely to be disturbed it is removed or made safe by licensed asbestos specialist contractors.”

This story is published by Enfield Dispatch, Enfield's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

The LDRS asked the council if it could confirm whether safety measures are in place at all of the schools to ensure the asbestos is not disturbed, and whether there are any plans to remove the asbestos at some or all of the affected schools, where this is possible. It has yet to respond.

The full list of school sites containing asbestos provided by the council is as follows:

  1. Oakthorpe Primary School, Tile Kiln Lane (main building);
  2. Garfield Children’s Centre, Springfield Road;
  3. Durants School, Pitfield Way (main building);
  4. Oaktree School, Chase Side (main building);
  5. Hazelwood Infant and Junior School, Hazelwood Lane (infants building, juniors buildings, kitchen block, caretaker’s accommodation);
  6. Merryhills Primary School, Bincote Road (main building);
  7. Eversley Infant and Junior School, Chaseville Park Road (infants building);
  8. George Spicer Primary School, Southbury Road (stores);
  9. Enfield County Upper School, Holly Walk (main building);
  10. Chase Side Primary School, Trinity Street (main building);
  11. Suffolks Primary School, Brick Lane (main building);
  12. Capel Manor Primary School, Bullsmoor Lane (main building);
  13. Honilands Primary School, Lovell Road (main building, caretaker’s house);
  14. Raglan Infant And Junior School, Raglan Road (infants building, junior building, caretaker’s house);
  15. Winchmore School, Laburnum Grove (main building);
  16. Prince Of Wales Primary School, Salisbury Road (main building);
  17. Highfield Primary School, Highfield Road (main building);
  18. Eldon Primary School, Eldon Road (infants building, juniors building, infant block D);
  19. Firs Farm Primary School, Rayleigh Road (main building);
  20. Southbury Primary School, Swansea Road (infants building, juniors building)
  21. Enfield County Lower School, Rosemary Avenue (main building);
  22. George Spicer Primary School, Southbury Road (main building);
  23. Russett House School (11 Autumn Close);
  24. De Bohun Primary School, Green Road (main building);
  25. Bush Hill Park Primary School, Main Avenue (reception building);
  26. Enfield County Upper School, Holly Walk (Broome building);
  27. Hadley Wood Primary School, Claremont Road (main building);
  28. Bush Hill Park Primary School, Main Avenue -(infants building, nursery);
  29. Westgrove Primary School, Chase Road;
  30. Carterhatch Infant School, Carterhatch Lane (main building);
  31. Durants School, High Street (main building);
  32. Chace Community School, Churchbury Lane (main building).

Update (6th October):

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “The safety of students and school staff is paramount. Enfield Council has a robust and rigorous system of management in place for schools where asbestos has been identified.

“These site-specific management plans, training, advice and site visits have all been created in line with health and safety regulations and guidance. Where structures containing asbestos are in good condition and are unlikely to be disturbed, they will be left in place with a regular inspection regime, in line with industry guidance.”

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month. £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or yearly 

More Information about donations