Louise Burdett, Governor of St Lawrence C of E Primary School and Fit for the Future Network member asks the question: ‘can we make a difference from our little school in Kent?’
St Lawrence C of E Primary School is made up of three buildings: an 1856 School House, converted Air-Raid shelter, and mobile classroom. The Window room, which is used for one-to-one teaching has beautiful original features, but is freezing. Improving the learning environment and the school’s resilience into the future, whilst conserving its special features, is important to the whole school community, and my main motivation as parent Governor.
That’s why six or so months ago the head teacher Alison and I cooked up the idea of creating our own Environmental Management System (EMS), based on the one used by the National Trust. Having spent five years working there, I left with huge enthusiasm for the positive benefits energy management and a renewables approach could bring, especially for traditional buildings.
The main idea I came away with, was that energy should be at the heart of a community (even had the power to create community) and that we should be using locally embedded energy sources for our school.
We are not seeking green flags and eco status (although we may pick them up along the way). However, can energy management and harnessing renewable energy make a real difference to our school? In my opinion, it can: if our our approach is financially viable, our school made fit for future generations and our pupils gain an understanding of their impact on the environment. For all these reasons, we SHOULD be doing EMS, but beyond that, for a small school, creating financial stability is high on the agenda too. Luckily, with the RHI and FiT there are real opportunities to utilise our assets to help finance and resource our educational ambitions.
How far have we got? Well, we have buy-in from our senior management, we know how far we’d like to take an EMS, and the Initial Environmental Reviews are done for each building and classroom.
We have had a free site inspection to assess our suitability for renewables by Justin Broadbent of ISO Energy who fast-tracked our understanding of the school by months (probably years) with his holistic understanding and encyclopaedic knowledge of energy, buildings and the environment (as well as Government legislation). He’s coming back in January with a scaffold tower to look behind our false ceiling and do some thermal imaging for us at the same time – we feel very fortunate to have made a friend of Justin.
We’ve also had the wonderful Iain Macintosh from Heritage Lighting and fellow Network member perform a free lighting survey, helping us understand how we can reduce our energy consumption whilst improving the learning environment by careful lighting design. Iain and Justin’s work with the school will be the subject of future blogs.
We joined the Fit for the Future Network in order to strengthen our foundations and to ensure that we have a platform where we can seek help and share our successes. It is also helping us to learn from others; through the Network we have been linked up with Ashley C of E Primary School, who have won awards for their sustainable living and learning approaches. Can we make a difference to others from our little school in Kent? Yes, absolutely, if we shout loudly enough. The Trust inspired me, and we want to inspire others. It’s no good working in isolation – collaboration is essential to expedite the change that is needed. And we love what we’re doing and want to talk about it.
We haven’t yet designed our approach to incorporating this project into the curriculum, but just from passing comments, and the few exchanges I’ve had with the pupils at St Lawrence, it’s clear to see that they get it, even if we don’t.