‘Building the educational environment for the future’ by John Howson

The Climate Has No Borders

In the year of COP26 many are raising the issue of ‘a sustainable education system’.  The FED objective is to have a long-term vision and plan for education in this country. Such a plan cannot ignore the need to build a net zero environment in education for future generations.

At the FED we are making this issue a key part of our discussions as we move forward with our consultation. In this blog written for the FED to develop debate and discussion, John Howson outlines some stimulating thoughts on potential actions for schools and colleges (and Government) as we face the climate emergency.

Climate change and schools: A challenge by John Howson

The following actions will help to start the fight by the education sector against the harmful effects of climate change.

These are just a start, but they offer the chance to inspire and encourage each and every school to play its part in the better use of our planet and its finite resources. Some can be achieved by every school; others require MATs and local authorities to take action and yet others, more research and development. 

Climate Change is a challenge for the education sector as a whole, not just for state schools. Climate change challenges all education providers, from primary schools to higher education, and from small village schools to our chains of international private schools with campuses across the globe.

My proposals:

1.        Ensuring that by the end of the 2021-2022 school year every school has at least one charging point for an electric vehicle. This should be simple to achieve as it needs no new technology and a network of suppliers is in place to fit these points, either wall or column mounted. Of course, more than one point would be better, but let’s start the ball rolling with a simple and achievable target.

2.       To supply the electricity of these charging points, schools need a new incentive to use their roof space for the installation of photo-voltaic panels. Such a scheme would also provide a boost to this industry as it suffers from the ending of government schemes for domestic properties,

3.        School playgrounds are the most under-used of our public spaces. How can we make better use of them during the hours of daylight when they are empty of children and achieving nothing? Ingenuity in respect of playgrounds can create panels that are vertical when playgrounds are in use but spread out horizontally to generate electricity when children are not about.

4.        This technology can be allied to the desire by the current government to create a world-leading battery technology industry. Schools are at the hub of their communities, so local generation of energy, stored when created and released when needed, can help challenge the traditional notion of power creation and distribution we are all familiar with.

5.       Many of our schools are still badly insulated. So we need a scheme to use a portion of the cash for education to reduce heat loss in schools through an insulation scheme for walls and ceilings.

6.       We should require schools to replace all gas cooking in their kitchen by electric ovens, hobs and other appliances. I would also ask the design and technology departments to consider the elimination of the use of gas in their home economics departments.

7.       On a bigger scale is the replacement of gas-fired boilers by other forms of heating. This is a big ask and we need to discuss with industry leaders how this might be achieved for all schools.

8.       Finally we need to address the journey pupils take every day to and from school. We should aim to promote and reward positive actions and discuss how to provide incentives to both schools and pupils to achieve a significant reduction in car journeys to and from school. I especially challenge the independent school sector to work on this task, as I know it is a real issue for many of those schools that draw pupils from a wide distance.


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