A coroner has ruled that a former teacher, Sue Stephens, died after being exposed to asbestos in schools.

Sue Stephens, 68, worked as a teacher in Buckinghamshire for 30 years before retiring in 2008 to Crediton, Devon.  She was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, which can lie dormant for decades, in 2014 and died in June this year.

During the inquest, held at Exeter’s County Hall, the court heard that Sue had written a statement saying she recalled construction work being undertaken at another school and asbestos being removed by builders in the classrooms during lessons.

In the statement, she said:

‘Previously I had been very fit and well. This diagnosis came as an enormous shock to me and my family. My symptoms started around 18 months ago.’

She said at one school she used a staple gun to pin children’s work to the walls.

She said:

‘I would stand on a table to do this and it took around two hours. I did it one afternoon every fortnight and I believe I was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres.

I was never told it (the school) contained asbestos or to take extra care.’

Greater Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland concluded that Sue died from industrial disease.

‘I’m satisfied Mrs Stephens was exposed to asbestos during her time as a teacher in schools in Buckinghamshire which underwent building repairs from the 90s upwards.

On the balance of probability, and noting the type of repairs at the time and the materials involved, I believe this led to fatal asbestos exposure.’

Prior to her death, Sue’s daughter, Lucie, launched a petition calling for the government to make it law to begin the removal of asbestos from all schools by 2028.

The petition has more than 9,000 signatures.

A Buckinghamshire County Council spokesman said: ‘We would like to express our sympathy to Sue Stephens’ family on their sad loss.  We are, however, unable to make any comment on individual cases.’

 

To ensure you are aware of the implications of the presence of asbestos, as well as means of ensuring your buildings remain compliant and safe, please view our Asbestos Management pages.