Thornhill Eco Club with Head Teacher and Eco Co-ordinator.

Since becoming Head Teacher in 2011, Paul Tucker has overseen the installation of PV panels, sunpipes, passive ventilation in the new building, and a comprehensive school-wide Building Management System. This has led to reduction of 30% gas use and 32% electricity use.

The school has seen four extensions over the years so it now has a two-form entry each year. The growth of the school has led to increased energy demand, the latest requirement being a third boiler.

We found Thornhill Primary School to be a real innovator. What’s more, Thornhill is willing to share ideas with other schools and help others to make the same kind of savings.

Ashden judging panel

Context

Thornhill Primary School’s crack squad of student eco-warriors keep energy wastage to a minimum with their spot checks on whether lights and appliances have been left on in the classroom. The school’s willingness to trial new ideas and share the results with others, along with its determination to reduce carbon to the absolute minimum, is what makes it the first Welsh school to win an Ashden Sustainable School Award.

Solar PV, LED lighting, a building management system and more efficient IT facilities mean that electricity consumption has reduced by over a third since 2011/12. Little wonder that Cardiff City Council use Thornhill as a case study of best practice in CO2 reduction.

Thornhill student Alex, pointing to one of the sunpipes.

Impact

Thornhill’s crack squad of student eco-warriors keep energy wastage to a minimum with their spot checks on whether lights and appliances have been left on in the classrooms.

The school’s willingness to trial new ideas and share the results with others, along with its determination to reduce C02 emissions to the absolute minimum, is what makes it the first Welsh school to win an Ashden Sustainable School Award.

At this school; solar PV, LED lighting, a building management system and more efficient IT facilities mean that electricity consumption has reduced by almost a third since 2011/12.

Thornhill Primary's array of solar panels.

Buildings and technology

The school has installed a school-wide Building Management System (BMS), which allows it to monitor and manage its electricity and gas use. In addition to excellent energy management, investments in LED lighting in two-thirds of the buildings, solar PV, and more efficient IT facilities have enabled the school to reduce electricity consumption by over a third since 2011/12.  It is also generating an income from the solar array of around £1,500 per annum. 

In 2012, an innovative redesign of the ITC suite, which is powered by a newly installed 10kWp solar array, drastically cut the use of electricity by computers and negated the need for air conditioning. The suite now comprises a multipoint server system with solar powered electricity stored in two batteries (similar in size to truck batteries) connected to six solar panels. These efforts have led to a total of:

  • 30% reduction in gas use over one year.
  • 32% reduction in electricity use over three years.
  • £1,500 income from PV per year.

Detail

Since his appointment as Head Teacher in 2011, Paul Tucker has ensured that energy use at the school is closely monitored and reduced wherever possible. He has overseen the installation of PV panels, sunpipes and passive ventilation in the new building, and a comprehensive school-wide Building Management System. These changes have contributed, along with behaviour change, to reduced energy use at the school.

Students and staff are engaged with energy saving and work together to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of school life.

We need to invest in our children’s future and, by safeguarding the environment for them and helping them understand our impact on the planet, we can provide a safe and healthy world for them.

Paul Tucker, Head Teacher, Thornhill Primary School

Behaviour change

The Head Teacher has an excellent control of energy use in the school thanks to a good range of behaviour change activities and regular monitoring of energy consumption. He has a full understanding of the energy data provided by the Carbon Culture website, enabling him to keep track of consumption and compare performance with previous years. 

Additionally, Lisa Green, the school’s Eco Coordinator, oversees a team of eco warriors. Random spot checks are carried out by the eco warriors to check if lights and appliances have been left on in classrooms. Records are kept for a competition between year groups with a trophy presented at assembly for best performance.

Thornhill's exemplary IT suite.

Curriculum

Sustainability and energy use is incorporated into teaching and students learn about the global significance of their actions. Thornhill uses the Cornerstones Skills Curriculum to provide a thematic approach to learning, so the energy theme is used in Year 3 and Year 6.  Students have made creative and artistic displays for the school, which focus on different types of energy sources and their relative environmental issues. 

We teach the children that saving energy is as important as saying please and thank you.

Lisa Green, Eco Coordinator, Thornhill Primary School

The future

Thornhill plans to introduce more renewables and technology to help it to continue to reduce its energy use.  It also has further projects planned, like rainwater harvesting, and aims to become as close to a carbon zero school as possible. 

The LED lighting investment at Thornhill has encouraged Cardiff City Council to develop a policy on LED lighting which will hopefully encourage other schools to investigate installing LED lighting using Salix loans. Funded by the Department for Education, Salix launched a Schools programme in 2012 providing 100% interest free loans specifically for schools in England to reduce their carbon emissions.