The DfE has launched its Asbestos Management Assurance Process (AMAP) on 1st March 2018, which requires ‘Responsible Bodies’, via an online portal, to provide an electronic declaration that their schools are compliant with legislation on the management of asbestos in their education estate. ‘Responsible Bodies’ are the main employer of staff at maintained schools and academies (academy trusts, LAs and in some cases governing bodies). Although it is not described as compulsory, Responsible Bodies are ‘ expected’ to comply and the DfE has stated that it intends to publish data which shows which Responsible Bodies have provided assurance declarations.
Although it is the duty of each Responsible Body to ensure that the form is submitted on behalf of all its schools, it can ask individual schools to provide it with the relevant information. However, the Responsible Body remains ultimately responsible for validating and ensuring the accuracy of information submitted by individual schools, and for providing the overall assurance declaration to the DfE.
The AMAP will be open for 3 months (the deadline for submitting assurances is 31 May 2018). During this time the DfE will remind Responsible Bodies of the expectation that responses are submitted.
From the NEU point of view, the big flaw in this process is that there are no external inspections, or even spot checks, to ensure that the information provided is accurate. Despite this, it is a positive development, and something for which the JUAC unions have been pushing, via the DfE Asbestos in Schools Steering Group.
From our experience of submitting FOI requests to both LAs and academy trusts over the last couple of years, it is clear that many Responsible Bodies have in effect sought to wash their hands of any responsibility for asbestos management in schools where they are the employer. This process should, at least, oblige them to take steps to prove that they are meeting their duties in relation to asbestos management.
Once we have the list of those Responsible Bodes that have complied, it will of course be apparent which have not participated, which will enable certain conclusions to be drawn. The DfE has said that where there are concerns resulting from any assurance declarations, the HSE may need to be involved. If/when in the future we hear about exposure incidents and bad practice in schools where assurance declarations have been provided, this will assist in putting pressure on the DfE to introduce a more rigorous process, involving inspections. It will also put the spotlight on Responsible Body failures.
The mere process of the DfE asking for these assurances (with fear of being named and shamed for not safety managing asbestos) may in itself lead some Responsible Bodies (and schools) to up their game.
If you are a health and safety adviser you may wish to raise this with your LA and other Responsible Bodies to discuss how they will be working with schools to comply with this process as accurately as possible, and share the information with h&s reps in your area. If you work in a school which contains asbestos please raise with your head teacher the importance of participating in the assurance process. Any queries should be referred to
firstname.lastname@example.org. The AMAP online portal is at https://onlinecollections.des.fasst.org.uk/onlinecollections_ns/
(currently this isn’t working, this has been raised with the DfE).
Modern Governor have published a blog that I have written about how the process works. Although aimed at governors,it will be relevant to school leaders and also to local officers and h&s reps who we would urge to encourage schools and employers to work together on this important initiative.
We will share the findings with you at the end of the process.
Pay, Conditions and Bargaining
National Education Union (NUT Section)
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