In a few years' time, the school sector may look back and wonder why it took sky-rocketing gas and electricity bills to get it thinking about reducing energy consumption to the benefit of the planet.
Within Thrive we could have done more, and earlier. Schools are a significant user of energy and we have a civic responsibility to act now for this and future generations.
Thank you to all of you who gave cost reduction suggestions last week. Much of what was suggested we are already acting on - but clearly could do better on communicating this. Here is further information on what we are doing, what we are considering doing, and what we won’t be doing.
What we are doing to reduce energy consumption
We are expanding our capacity to control IT system switch-offs. Systems are already functioning in secondary schools, we will extend systems into primary schools, ensuring that computers are powered down and cannot be left on overnight.
We are extending our ability to charge Chromebook trolleys (there are 60 across the Trust) at times when electricity is cheaper (between midnight and 7am).
We have an ongoing programme of replacing single glazed windows with double glazing - even in those buildings that are Grade II listed.
We will ensure that blinds are working properly so that staff can ensure enough natural light is available.
We are recommissioning the biomass boilers at Kelvin Hall School and Newland School for Girls - biomass now being cheaper than gas.
We are monitoring each school’s energy usage month by month to give feedback on consumption compared with the same period last year. This information will be shared with schools, LGBs, and the Trust Board, to ensure that we continue to reduce energy usage.
What we are doing to increase energy production
We are looking to expand our ability to generate solar electricity. Ings Primary (pictured above)currently has a solar array of 115 solar panels (see header image). We are investigating grant funding to acquire more.
We are investigating applying for grant funding to install air-source heat pumps as a replacement for gas boilers.
What we are doing to reduce other costs
We are reviewing the use of paper across all schools, including the amount of photocopying we do.
We are reviewing school’s approaches to wall displays, particularly displays of children’s work to ensure that schools look smart and recycle / reuse resources in a cost efficient way.
Things we might do
Some Trusts are looking into reducing the ambient temperature of their schools and purchasing fleeces for staff and pupils. We will investigate options.
Things we won’t be doing
Some Trusts have rumoured moving to a 4-day working week, thereby saving a day of energy costs, and teaching pupils remotely. We will not be considering this option. Remote learning is not a good substitute for face-to-face learning, and it does not seem fair to place the costs of heat and light onto hard-pressed families.
As I said last week there is no need for us to consider the option of staffing reduction.
Your involvement, pupil involvement
The government has today announced a price cap for 6 months of 21.1p/KwH for electricity and 7.5p/KWh for gas. Our initial analysis suggests that in a primary such as Chiltern this may reduce the energy bill from around £36k to around £29.5k - helpful, but this is only a guaranteed position for six months, we are still very uncertain about what our bills will look like come 1st April 2023 when we will have signed a new deal and the current price cap comes to an end. Each individual small change in behaviour (shutting down computers, turning off lights etc.) will further decrease our energy costs and CO2 emissions.
I am very proud that we are strengthening our involvement of pupils in this crucial area. Last year all of our schools joined the Eco-Schools movement, and 7 received the Green Flag Award. This has involved pupils in thinking about the environmental impact of being a school, and we will be broadening and deepening this work this year to involve the whole school community, including involving each school in a MAT Pupil Eco-Schools Summit.