Members of the Green Gang get involved in electricity monitoring

South Farnborough Infant School used what it learned on the Ashden LESS CO2 course to change its attitude to energy use and help the next generation see the importance of treating energy responsibly.

Substantial electricity and gas savings have been made despite the limitations of the building, thanks to a clear policy of monitoring, setting targets, energy management, technical changes and education.

It’s heartening to see the impact that participating in our LESS CO2 programme has made on South Farnborough. It clearly took what it learned in the programme and built on it, achieving major savings on energy bills through simple and cheap measures - which is exactly what we hope all LESS CO2 participants will do.

Ashden judging panel

Promoting sustainable energy behaviour

A culture of sustainability and responsibility is at the core of this school with a clear understanding at all levels of the need to monitor and reduce energy consumption. Governors and the Head Teacher have agreed policies that are implemented by both paid and voluntary staff as well as pupils. The policies also extend to contractors working within the school.

The school now pays for a Teacher in Charge of Sustainability to coordinate curriculum activities, oversee energy monitoring and ensure agreed targets are achieved.

Managing energy use in school buildings

In 2009 -2010 Ann-Marie Hopkins, a teacher at the school, attended the pilot ‘LESS CO2’ course run by Ashden. This coincided with the installation of a condensing boiler at the school. These two factors led the school to reflect on its energy use for the first time, and to start making changes.

The Earth is Beautiful - a pupil made display at South Farnborough Infant School

The first step was to start reading electricity and gas meters regularly. At first this was done monthly by the caretaker, and now daily by pupils. The kitchen was identified as a major user of electricity but it was out of the school’s control as catering was managed by a contractor. An additional meter was installed to monitor electricity consumption within the kitchen, allowing the school to keep track of the contractor’s performance.

A smart meter now allows electricity usage data to be stored and compared month on month and through holiday periods.

A daily target for electricity use has been set and pupils monitor this via a display in the school hall with results being read out to the whole school at weekly assemblies. Pupils in the Green Gang monitor the switching off of electrical equipment within the school and award green tokens for good practice and red ones for non-compliance. Results are announced weekly.

In addition to monitoring and targeting, the school has introduced Solatubes to provide daylight in corridors and reduce the use of artificial lighting. Efficient T5 fluorescent lighting has been fitted in classrooms and thermostatic radiator valves have been installed where practicable. Agreed temperature levels help to reduce unnecessary heating of classrooms and offices. Roof insulation has been installed where possible, although the design and age of the building limits this.

These energy saving improvements have been funded from the school budget, providing further evidence of the school’s commitment to improve the situation.

The Green Gang monitor the switching off of electrical equipment within the school and award green tokens for good practice

Integrating sustainable energy into the curriculum

‘Care of Our World’ is promoted across the school curriculum both in school and out to the wider community. In Early Years ‘Eddie the Penguin’ helps very young children understand the effects climate change is having and the simple things they can do to contribute to sustainable living.

In Year One pupils learn about transport and its effects then move on to ‘Houses and Homes’ culminating in the design of shoe box ‘Eco Houses’ incorporating low energy features. They each make promises to reduce their impact on the environment and study the school environment, mini-beasts and wild flowers. All pupils take home an energy monitor to extend their studies by measuring electricity consumption at home.

In Year Two, children study rivers and rainforests, conservation and pollution, supplemented by field trips to Blackwater Valley, all underpinning the theme of environmental awareness and the concepts of reduction, reuse and recycling. A focus on why equipment needs to be turned off is supported by practical advice and children take energy monitors home to extend their learning and awareness.

Our work at South Farnborough has made a lasting impact and is attracting interest from schools all over the area.

Helen Fletcher Davies, Head Teacher

During each school year a range of whole school Green Days, visits and assemblies further emphasise the importance of sustainability within the school.

Energy and cost savings

The school experienced a doubling in electricity consumption when a new kitchen was installed, as it included large fridges, freezers and electric cookers. To identify the source of the problem, the school installed a sub-meter for the kitchen, and, on the basis of the readings, persuaded the catering contractor to install more efficient models and turn off the fly-killer outside of school hours. Early indications are that the kitchen’s electricity consumption has dropped by about a third as a result, while overall electricity consumption by the whole school has dropped by about 17% in the last year, saving around £1,000 annually.

2010 saw the installation of a new gas boiler and measures to save energy on heating being introduced, with the result that weather-corrected gas consumption is down 24% over the past two years, saving £5,000 a year.

Solartubes introduce natural light into corridors reducing the need for electric lighting

Environmental benefits

As a result of the reductions in energy usage the school has reduced CO2 emissions by about 36 tonnes per year.

Other environmental initiatives at South Farnborough include an after school gardening club, bee keeping, composting of waste, a sensory garden and willow dome. A waste monitoring scheme is being introduced to examine kitchen and food waste, in addition to the recycling activities already established.

A recent toilet refit provided the opportunity to reduce water consumption by installing low volume cisterns and taps.

Community engagement

Every family is asked to take part in the Two Week Energy Challenge. They borrow an electricity monitor from the school and log their daily electrical consumption, living as normal for the first week and making an effort to save electricity in the second. At the end of the challenge readings are brought back to the school and the prize of an energy monitor given to the household that have saved the most electricity. Following this exercise one family reduced their electricity consumption by 44%.

When I arrived at South Farnborough I thought it’s a lovely place and I really want to make a difference.

Ann-Marie Hopkins, Teacher in charge of Sustainability

Parents and grandparents take part in the gardening club and the school is currently mentoring five other local schools in their drive to reduce energy. In 2010 the school hosted a Green Promise Day encouraging local shops, businesses, residents and parents to celebrate the environmental work being undertaken.

The future

The school would like to complete the installation of high efficiency lighting throughout the rest of the building, and the roof construction and orientation may make it suitable for a small scale PV array. The school would like to install this with a monitoring system to be used for educational purposes.

Our school really cares about us and our future.

Green Gang pupil member

The Green Promise Day involving the wider local community is to be repeated this year but with the focus being on a wide range of issues promoting sustainable living and retitled ‘One world, let’s care for it’.

The success of South Farnborough lies in achieving significant energy reductions without high capital cost or the use of expensive technology. By making staff and pupils aware of costs, empowering them to make changes and supporting them when necessary real cost benefits and energy savings have been made. This is a model that can be repeated in virtually every school and college and is particularly relevant at this time of economic constraint.