How a small school in Cornwall won a big prize for energy saving

  • Make way for Generation Green
  • A community project with a difference
  • Meet the young energy ambassadors of the future

 

What could a church, a poisonous frog and a lightning bolt possibly have in common? The story starts when Ingrid Bennett, head teacher of St Wenn primary school in Cornwall, spotted a competition in her local paper. It was the beginning of something big for her school.

St Wenns school

The competition has been part of the British Gas schools education programme - Generation Green - since 2008. The initiative invests in schools to change the way pupils think about energy and has helped inspire a new generation of bright young energy ambassadors.

As one of several winners in 2015, St Wenn school received funding of £100,000, which was used to install 16 solar panels, a biomass boiler shared by the neighbouring church, LED lighting and a snazzy dashboard which displays daily energy savings. 

solar panels on the roof of St Wenns school

“It reminds me of a lightning bolt,” says Fleur, 11. “It shows all the electricity we use. It’s great that something so good could happen to us. We're such a small school.”

Numbering just 72 pupils, and at the heart of rural and farming communities in mid-Cornwall, the school is now saving over £2,500 per year – enough to help pay for a teaching assistant for two to three terms. It’s also created a generation of young ambassadors for energy conservation.

The investment has inspired the school’s first recycling-club. Hannah, Fleur, Erin and Tilly, proudly reveal that they love running their own campaign. 

Hannah, Fleur, Erin and Tilly holding up recycling posters

“Our teacher doesn’t really help us, it’s our project,” says Fleur. “We made the phone calls to the council ourselves to get the recycling bags and we go to the chef everyday to see if he has any recycling bits.”

“Maybe adults don’t think about energy because they think it’s boring or don’t have time,” says Hannah. “But if we don’t look after the planet, global warming will get worse.”

On the day of our visit, the morning finishes with an assembly in the neighbouring church. Where there were once pews, there is now open space – a radical move inspired by the installation of the under floor heating system that warms the church at weekends and evenings, using the school’s newly fitted biomass boiler. 

People walking towards a church, visiting the school

“Brazil and the rainforest is our school topic at the moment and we’re discussing what we can do to help save trees in our own environment,” says head teacher Ingrid, before calling out to her pupils.

“What creature is in danger because of deforestation?”

“The poisonous frog!”

As the whole school sings, ‘Tomorrow, together, we step forward’, it’s clear that the Generation Green programme has helped to create plenty of eco-savvy youngsters who are ready to go out and spread their knowledge for years to come. 

 

Published December 2016. All facts and figures correct at the time of publishing.

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