Asbestos discovery closes school

St Peter's
St Peter's

PUPILS have been turned away from a school until next week after asbestos was found inside a wall.

But council bosses and staff at St Peter’s Elwick Church of England Primary School, in Elwick Village, have moved to reassure parents that there has been no risk to their children.

The discovery was made around 4pm on Tuesday by builders carrying out improvement works in one of the classrooms and it was identified as asbestos at 7.30am yesterday.

The school, which teaches 95 children aged from three to 11-years-old, will be closed for the rest of the week until the potentially-harmful material has been removed by a specialist firm.

Headteacher Steve McDonnell said: “The 4ft x 4ft section of asbestos which had been encapsulated between wood, plasterboard and tiles inside two internal walls, was disturbed during improvement works.

“A room formerly used as an IT suite was affected as a result.

“The substance was found after all pupils had left the school on Tuesday and it was identified as asbestos before the start of the school day on Wednesday.

“It is important to stress that no children were in school from the time the material was discovered and we want to reassure parents that no children were exposed to the asbestos at any time.

“We immediately took the decision to close the school for three days on the advice of a specialist asbestos removal company, and this will enable the asbestos to be safely removed and the affected area to be cleaned.

“I would also like to apologise for any inconvenience that the closure might cause to parents, but pupil safety is and always will be our paramount concern.”

Married mum Faye Robinson, 29, whose daughters Skye, five, and Star, three, attend St Peter’s school and nursery, praised the way in which the school handled the situation.

Faye, an art student, originally of Greatham Village but who currently lives in Percy Street, Hartlepool, said: “The school have been brilliant and did the right thing in closing.

“We were told about on Wednesday morning and then they sent a text later to confirm everything.

“Parents will obviously have to sort childcare for their kids, but it’s worth it until the problem has been sorted.”

Mr McDonnell said the discovery was made during extensive works to improve the layout of the 50-year-old school and enhance teaching and learning areas.

The asbestos had been installed as part of the original construction, and the school has been advised that it would have been virtually impossible to detect.

The reconfiguration works are due to be completed by Easter.