TRADE union Unison has accused the Government of putting teachers and pupils at “potential risk” by scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme.

It has called on school bosses to do all they can to protect their workers from asbestos poisoning, which it describes as a “hidden killer”.

Bolton Council says it is carefully managing any potential asbestos exposure in the borough’s schools, where it is estimated the majority of buildings — 80 per cent — contain asbestos.

The union call comes after £248,000 compensation was awarded to the family of a school caretaker and member of Unison who died from fatal cancer mesothelioma due to asbestos.

Unison took up the case after its member was diagnosed with cancer of the lining of the lungs in December 2010. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.

The father-of-two died in March 2012 this year.

He was exposed to asbestos whilst working for Lancashire County Council as a caretaker at two primary schools during the 1980s.

During his time at the schools he worked in the boiler rooms where asbestos was present.

Bernadette Gallagher, Bolton Unison branch secretary, said: “Mesothelioma is a deadly killer and asbestos is still found in many public buildings.

“Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was intended to rebuild or renew nearly every secondary school in England. This programme would have got rid of a lot of the asbestos present in schools at the moment, but the Government has scrapped these plans, leaving many at potential risk”.

In Bolton plans are in place to manage asbestos in line with national guidance to safeguard staff and children.

Schools built before 2000 are assumed to have asbestos in them.

Under BSF, seven schools would have been rebuilt or undergone extensive refurbishment with similar plans for other schools in subsequent years.

Bolton also lost out on a slice of £2 billion put forward by the Government to rebuild and improve school buildings.

A council spokesman said: “We would like to reassure parents, pupils and teachers that any potential exposure to asbestos is carefully managed in Bolton’s schools to identify and mitigate any potential risks.

“Further to a survey of our full school portfolio in 2005, we conducted another survey in 2010 to ensure all asbestos in schools had been identified. As part of this exercise individual management plans were produced for each school, indicating the condition of any asbestos and how it should be managed.”

He added: “It is the responsibility of each headteacher to ensure that any asbestos is managed and the management plan is reviewed every 12 months, which includes re-assessing the condition of the asbestos present. The council also carries out periodic inspections to ensure that schools are managing asbestos in accordance with plan.”