Home' Teacher : September 2010 Contents 70 TEACHER SEPTEMBER 2010
LOW-DENSITY ASBESTOS FIBRE BOARD HAS BEEN FOUND IN MORE THAN A THIRD OF
QUEENSLAND STATE SCHOOLS -- 115 OF 289 INSPECTED SCHOOLS -- BUT WITH
$16.4 BILLION STILL BEING SPENT IN A HURRY, THERE'S A REAL RISK OF
ASBESTOS EXPOSURE, SAYS MATTHEW TALBOT.
Asbestos in our
Education has always faced enormous chal-
lenges: trying student behaviour, unrealistic
work intensification and power imbalances,
then add radical new initiatives, introduced
with the best intentions like a new national
curriculum, say, or the Com monwealth gov-
ernment's $16.4 billion Building the Educa-
tion Revolution (BER) -- Primary Schools
for the 21st Century (P21) program.
The Liberal-dominated Senate Standing
Committee on Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations has its sights set on the
BER P21 program, and began an inquiry
into 'claims...regarding inflated costings and
failure to achieve value for money for P21
projects' well before Prime Minister Julia
Gillard called last month's federal election.
Lu rking alongside the problem of
inflated costings and failure to achieve
value for money is another problem that
must be treated with the utmost u rgency.
It's a problem intricately connected to the
massive scale of the BER -- exposure to
asbestos -- since many schools, like other
buildings built before 1978, contain asbes-
Nobody sees the inside workings of
schools quite like the humble relief teacher.
In my 10-year career, I've worked in close to
50 schools in three different cities, and have
had the privilege of being able to examine
them from a fresh and unbiased perspective.
I've observed, first-hand, asbestos in our
schools, often in places that are prominent
and easily accessible.
I've thoroughly examined the Queens-
land Asbestos Register. I've looked at every
single item listed for schools in my ow n
region, and I've had to conclude that the
extraordinary number of items in their vari-
ous states of degradation cannot be safe.
The Queen sland Asbestos Register, with all
its limitations, is about as reliable and effec-
tive as your typical school behaviour man-
agement plan. It simply cannot account for
the unpredictable and spontaneous things
that can happen to any of the enormous
range of weak physical structures present
Without naming any individual schools,
I can say with absolute certainty that, in the
work on the BER P21 program in many of
the schools in which I've worked, risks have
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