We seek to inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference – this is our purpose as a school. This means that they can make a positive difference to themselves, through the improvements in their learning, behaviour and attitude that they make every day. They can make a positive difference to our Academy, through their presence in our community and the contribution that they make. And they can go on to make a positive difference to the world, as a result of the education they have had at Churchill.
Making a positive difference is also something that we seek to do in the Academy’s environment, and our environmental impact. I have previously written about our net zero target and the steps we have already taken on that journey. More recently, we have completely replaced the heating system in the Performing Arts block (which also houses three art classrooms) to be run entirely off an air source heat pump, which was installed over the winter.
An air source heat pump absorbs heat from the air around us and transfers that heat to the inside of the building. Outside air is drawn in over a network of tubes filled with refrigerant gas, which circulates at -28°c to extract heat energy from the air outside. This low temperature refrigerant means that the systems pulls heat from the air, even when the outside temperature is below freezing. The gas passes through a compressor which increases the pressure and temperature, causing it to change from a cold gas to a hot liquid. The compressed hot liquid passes into a heat exchanger, which provides heat to the system. The refrigerant then turns back into a cold gas and starts the cycle all over again.
We are using an air-to-air system, which means that it will also double as a cooling system in hot weather in the summer. This means that the rooms will be kept at a good working temperature all year round – all using low carbon technology.
Net Zero Grant: we’re not finished yet!
I’m also delighted to say that we have been successful in securing a grant from the Department for Net Zero and Energy Security – the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. The grant, totalling £222,430, will allow us to replace gas boilers with air source heat pumps in the Sixth Form and around the Hive and Hall building. It will also pay for other improvements, such as double glazing and external wall insulation.
The work is all scheduled to be completed before September, which will mean that when we return for the new academic year there will be yet another building completely run from renewable energy sources – a further step towards our net zero target.
The project signifies the latest in a long line of energy efficiency and decarbonisation projects that we’ve been working on since 2015. Investments in point of use hot water heating, solar pv, boiler controls and LED lighting have supported a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions across our activity, and we remain committed to our ambition to be net zero carbon by 2030.
Of course, we welcome the grant funding to enable the next stage of our decarbonisation work to continue and look forward to taking another step forward on our sustainability journey. Our students are passionate about a greener future, and we’re striving to lead and deliver on this.
However, we know we have been fortunate with having funding allocated, as many other projects will not have been successful. And, without this grant, we simply couldn’t have afforded to do the work ourselves. As we’ve highlighted in the past, the ambition of school leaders is not always matched by the funding available for capital works or initiatives around decarbonisation. And with the increasing pressure on school budgets from many directions, including rising fuel costs, the question shifts from decarbonising for the good of the planet, to one of simple affordability. Because, the truth is, installing low carbon alternative technology is expensive! If the government is serious about a national move to net zero, it needs to be funded properly for all, and not just those fortunate few who are able to secure the grants.