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Asbestos hits school works

PUPILS at a Merseyside school face almost a year in makeshift classrooms after asbestos was found during building work.

Education chiefs urged parents at Bootle’s Thomas Gray primary school to be patient, stressing the students’ safety was paramount and the £300,000 temporary classrooms were “top drawer”.

Last month, the ECHO revealed how the junior building of the Chestnut Grove premises had to shut when workmen found asbestos.

The 270-pupil school is having a £3m facelift, with four new classrooms being built and the junior school refurbished.

Public health chiefs advised the school should be closed and eight classrooms were freed up at nearby St George of England high school for younger pupils.

But now the high school has said it needs the teaching space back next term, leaving Sefton council with no option other than to use six temporary classrooms.

Cllr Peter Dowd, cabinet member for education, said: “We have had to bring in temporary accommodation, but we are talking about top-drawer facilities with everything you would expect in a classroom to satisfy their needs.

“If the asbestos had not been found, we would have carried out the work in phases and built around the children.

“Doing the whole programme in one go should actually reduce the cost and make it more convenient for the builders.”

The new-look Thomas Gray primary was set to open in September next year.

But the Reverend Roger Driver, chairman of governors, said he was optimistic building work would now “crack on” and it could be ready as soon as May.

He said everyone at the school had pulled together, adding: “We do not foresee any problems.”

If disturbed, asbestos crumbles easily and releases millions of tiny fibres, which can cause serious or fatal illnesses if inhaled.

Any public building constructed or refurbished between the 1950s and mid-1980s is likely to contain some type of the material.

benturner@liverpoolecho.co.uk