In the biomass boiler room

Ashley Primary School has an ambitious programme of sustainable energy work, inspired by a visit made by the Head Teacher to see the effects of climate change in the Antarctic.

Pupils are actively engaged in efforts to reduce energy consumption at school and at home, and participate in the promotion of the energy activities through film and case study material. 

We’re making a better future for your children’s children’s children. It’s something you need to do, unless you want to be living on a planet which is practically made of rubbish – and I’m not sure that most people do.

Year six pupils

Background

Ashley Primary school is a state-funded Church of England school which had 330 pupils and an annual budget of about £0.9 million in 2010. It has recently doubled its intake from 30 pupils to 60 pupils per year. About 15% of pupils are from black and minority ethnic groups, and 5% receive free school meals. There are 10 teachers and 20 other staff. The latest OFSTED inspection in2007 rated the school as Outstanding.

The school has three teaching blocks – the original school building, which is over 150 years old, a recently constructed teaching block and a prefabricated building which is used for the youngest pupils and is due to be replaced.

The school has extensive grounds. Because of the emphasis on sustainability these include an orchard, herb garden, vegetable plots, pond and chicken run. There are also composting facilities and numerous water butts connected to the three teaching blocks.

Students get involved in every aspect of sustainability at the school

Promoting sustainable energy use

Promoting sustainable energy use involves all members of the school community, including parents. Pupils on the school’s Eco Committee monitor electricity consumption using data provided by the school’s electronic energy monitoring system, ecoDriver.

To promote energy efficiency around the school, pupils have produced stickers and posters encouraging staff and pupils to regularly turn off appliances at the socket. The site manager also checks this during his end-of-day lock-up. Pupils display their own energy pledges on the Eco-Committee’s notice board.

In 2008, the school started the ‘100 Club’ as a challenge to reduce electricity consumption. The three teaching blocks have weekly consumption targets, and collectively the challenge is to keep the school’s consumption below 100 kWh per day (with allowances for wet play times and evening meetings). If the school manages to do this over a whole week, pupils are rewarded with £10 from the headteacher, with a further £10 for each day below 50kWh. The School Council decides how the money is spent. For example, on one occasion it was decided to spend £200 on games for wet play times.

Efforts to reduce energy consumption extend to the wider school community as well. 71 pupils and their families took part in the school’s Carbon Countdown Challenge and 100 Club, encouraging energy consumption of less than 100 kWh per week in each home.

The key is that the message has to go home; it can’t just be at school. Energy-saving is ingrained in everything we do.

Andrew Klimaytys, Chair of Governors in 2009

Between 2007 and 2009, the school invested over £154,000 on sustainable energy measures, half of which came from school resources including its devolved capital budget, and the rest from grants and parental support.

Double glazed windows and doors have been installed in the old building to reduce heat loss. Solar tubes have been installed in a number of classrooms, corridors and cloakrooms to channel daylight into dark areas. There was disappointment with the amount of light provided by the type initially used, but the school managed to source a much better design, with greater use of reflective coatings. The new cloakrooms also benefit from large skylight windows, which were installed at the suggestion of pupils.

Nearly all the fluorescent lamps in the old school building have been replaced with T5 versions. In addition, light sensors with an over-ride facility have been installed in cloakrooms and toilets of the new building, at the suggestion of pupils. Efficiency has also been considered when buying IT equipment. High efficiency desktop computers and 15 W laptops are now used.

A 35 kW biomass boiler has been installed in the original school building, burning wood pellets sourced from local woodland. Gas is still used in the other two buildings for heating and hot water. The school has installed an array of 26 solar photovoltaic (PV) modules (4.2kWp) on the roof of the new teaching block to provide electricity, along with eight solar thermal evacuated tubes (11 kW) for hot water.

Integrating sustainability into the curriculum

All teachers include sustainability in their termly topics. For example, the ecoDriver system is used in numeracy so that pupils can handle and interpret data in a real life situation. In Art and Design, pupils have designed stickers and posters to encourage energy efficiency and water conservation. The school runs termly Funky Fridays and themed weeks that include projects to explore sustainable practices.

The end of every term pupils lead a ‘Care and Concern’ assembly which often includes activities on sustainable living. The pupils now share the school’s experience of sustainable energy with pupils from other local schools and links have also been made with schools in Poland and Italy. On the Year 6 trip to the French Alps, pupils visit the shrinking glacier of La Mer de Glace and get first-hand experience of the impact of climate change.

Environmental benefits

Between 2007 and 2008, mains electricity consumption at the school fell from 50.3 MWh to 24.7 MWh, a remarkable 51% reduction, representing a greenhouse gas saving of about 11 tonnes/year CO2. During the first four months of 2009, it fell a further 28% compared with the equivalent period in 2008. 

These impressive reductions demonstrate how much can be achieved through a whole school effort. Over the same period (2007/8), gas consumption fell by 18% from 100 MWh/year to 82 MWh/year and will continue to decrease now that the biomass boiler is fully operational. The equivalent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is about 3.4 tonnes/year CO2.

Educational benefits

Although it is difficult to directly measure the impact of the behavioural activities in the school, it is evident that sustainable energy has entered the pupils’ consciousness. The energy work has provided them with opportunities to promote ideas for caring for their environment and sustainable living through making videos, giving presentations and guiding visitors around the buildings to demonstrate the sustainable energy measures that are used in the school.