Schools and colleges win £500m for energy-saving funding
Written by Tim Greenhalgh
Schools and colleges in England can now make much-needed energy efficiency upgrades with a share of £500 million allocated by the government.
The new funding will be provided in the form of grants and means that the cash-strapped sector can invest in low-cost LED lighting, heating controls and other measures that will reduce energy use, particularly during the cold and dark winter months.
The government advises that under the new funding scheme, on average a primary school will receive approximately £16,000, a secondary school will get £42,000 and a further education college group will benefit from £290,000.
Further analysis indicates that a typical primary school with 200 pupils could receive £28,000, and secondary schools with around 900 pupils should get approximately £170,000.
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The new funding comes on top of £1.8 billion of capital funding committed this year for improving the condition of school buildings. The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme is also investing over £1.4 billion in public sector buildings, including schools over the next three financial years.
The government said the funds will complement the Energy Relief Scheme, which has seen energy prices frozen for businesses and public sector bodies this winter.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine is driving up energy prices worldwide, so it is important to look at the things we can do to make classrooms more energy efficient and resilient to price fluctuations. We’re putting this cash in the hands of school and college leaders quickly, so they can decide what work is needed and so that our brilliant teachers can focus on teaching in a warm and safe environment.”
Extra £2bn funding
There is also an extra £2bn for schools next year and 2024, which will be allocated between mainstream schools and high needs funding. Local councils will get an extra £400 million for high needs budgets, to help support children with special educational needs or disabilities. Academies, maintained mainstream schools and special schools will all be guaranteed a funding boost, which will arrive from April next year.
The Department for Education has published an updated guidance document for those seeking to improve the energy efficiency of schools and colleges
New government energy efficiency packages have been welcomed by business organisations and campaigners, with some strong reservations. They warn that the current budgets and policy framework will not deliver the targeted 15% reduction in UK energy use by 2030.
They also point to the government’s failure provide further funding and advice earlier so schools and other organisations could prepare for a harsh winter and the risk of energy shortages.
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, welcomed the announcements but warned that the level of funding still looked insufficient, particularly from 2025 onwards.
He said: “More public funding will likely be needed, and policies to mobilise private investment too. There are still no UK-wide policies to drive energy efficiency in the majority of homes. And we are still awaiting details on the UK government’s promised heat pump market mechanism.”
And charity Ashden also advised that further funding would be essential to help schools reduce energy use and meet carbon reduction targets. More than 1,800 schools, colleges and nurseries have joined Let’s Go Zero to show their intent to be zero carbon by 2030.
Carbon reduction is generally not progressing well in the education sector. Analysis of official data by campaign group People and Planet revealed that 59% of UK universities had failed to meet a target to cut their emissions by 43 per cent between 2005 and 2021.