Skip to content
Health, Sports & Psychology
Author:
  • Video
  • 10 mins

Back to (energy efficiency) school

Updated Saturday, 1st May 2010

Okehampton College’s 2010 Ashden Award recognises its work to cut energy consumption through improvements in energy efficiency and the installation of renewable energy technology

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

Video

Copyright open university

Text

Keith Webber

I’m Keith Webber, I’m from OakhamptonCollege in Devon.

Gill Harper

I’m Gill Harper from St Columb Minor School in Cornwall.

Interviewer

And what are your responsibilities at each of these two schools?

Keith Webber

Within my school I’m a, well I started off as a physics teacher, a science teacher, I then helped with sort of community engagement and it’s been community engagement through energy just recently.  So it’s kind of evolved that way, science and community.

Gill Harper

And I’m the Business Manager at the school and I’ve been leading sustainability since 2007.

Interviewer

So what brings you both to the Ashden Awards?

Keith Webber

Well we were invited to come by the Ashden Panellists, and we’re delighted to be here obviously.  We’ve been working hard on energy, trying to encourage people to use it wisely, generate what we can by renewable means and raise the whole awareness of the issue surrounding energy.  So it’s because of our engagement with that I guess.

Gill Harper

Yes, I would say you know just as that recognition really of what we’ve achieved.

Interviewer

What in particular have you achieved up to this point, what would you say is your defining accomplishment?

Gill Harper

I think with us we’ve now embedded sustainability throughout our school, and we want to now share the practice and promote it within the community and within the schools in Cornwall.

Keith Webber

What we’ve done to date is drastically reduce our electricity bill.  We’re working on the gas as well.  There’s a big community angle on this.  We are a large school, 1,500 students, there’s 11 primary schools that feed into us and we’ve been working with them to try and help them with energy matters and we’ve run workshops for the community.  And we are a technology college so we kind of see it as part of what we want to do, and to generate or produce the next generation of engineers and scientists and people who can hopefully solve the problems that we face.

Interviewer

So what first sparked your interest in environmental issues and sustainability?

Gill Harper

I did a degree in business management and my dissertation was on sustainability and I think that sort of inspired me.  I also went to a conference where Eugenie Harvey was speaking from ‘We Are What We Do’, and she gave me the inspiration to take it forward.

Interviewer

What in particular were you looking at in your dissertation work?

Gill Harper

Really how to become an eco school and whether you needed to lead it or manage it within the school.

Interviewer

It sounds like you’re not going to be without any work?

Gill Harper

No.

Interviewer

Plenty of things on the table.  How about yourself?

Keith Webber

Can you just remind me of that question again please?

Interviewer

Yeah, what first sparked your interest in environmental issues?

Keith Webber

Oh I see.  Well I trained as an engineer, scientist, I keep hearing in the news about the energy crisis, the climate problems, I keep hearing about it, we are a technology college as I say and it occurred to me that it’s something that we could engage with so we put a toe in the water and found not only is it very interesting but that everybody’s got a genuine interest in it.  So you’re pushing on an open door when you hit this topic and all sorts of offers come forwards to help you and move you on, so once you start the ball rolling it keeps rolling.  So it was just an initial, let’s see what we can do and it’s just spiralled into something that we’re very pleased with.

Interviewer

Is it that your experience is pushing on an open door?

Gill Harper

Yes, definitely.  I mean children really now have taken it on board and taken it forward and it’s now been, you know, it’s going down to the parents, the grandparents, really taking it outside and people are talking it on board now and it’s having a real positive impact.

Keith Webber

Can I just add to that, that it’s always in the news this topic so it’s good in a school if you’ve got something that’s a live issue to be dealing with.  I mean well all the students in my school, I think I can say without exception really, are very keen on us having some wind turbines.  A bit of a controversial thing, I’m not entirely sure why people should be so concerned about wind turbines but, particularly the ones we’ve got in mind which are small scale ones, but our students are becoming the driving force now, they’re actually saying well right what are we going to do to get those wind turbines up there because we believe we need them and we want them.  So that’s part of the inspiration, the fact that the children want to do it.

Interviewer

And you put the power in their hands and then something actually gets done.

Keith Webber

Well our student council are working on this, they’re lobbying the community, they will be getting a petition together in school to show the student’s willingness to have some wind turbines in place so it’s, they can get involved with it and it’s something that to a lot of them matters.  So it’s inspirational from that point of view just to have as a teacher to have something that they want to actually do is a refreshing change.

Interviewer

That’s amazing, are there some specific initiatives that for this?

Gill Harper

Yes, we’re an international school and we’re helping a school in Peru at the moment putting in solar showers and solar ovens, and the children have raised money.  We’ve also put some of our savings in that we’ve saved from our energy, over there to put in these systems, and we’re working with a local company who’s also match-funding it.  So it’s having those real live links that brings it home for children to understand there’s a school out there that’s got no electricity at all and they can really make a difference to somebody out there.

Keith Webber

Can I just add to that as well.  I’ve just seen some film about Uganda, other parts of the world where they really don’t have electricity and how delighted they are just to have one solar panel to run some LED lights.  Now I personally found that very humbling, and I think if every student in my school sees that it wouldn’t be too hard to motivate them to want to try and raise some money locally.  We do raise money for different charities in the school each year, I think it would be quite easy to convince them that it’s worth doing that to try and help another country with an electrical issue like that.

Gill Harper

It’s just having that inspiration and that opportunity to inspire people, I think that’s how we’ll make a difference really.

Interviewer

That is incredibly inspiring.  The two of you are in a fairly unique position working with the generation of tomorrow and seeing what they are experiencing, the passions of their minds, can I get each of you to just do a little bit of forward thinking, to look ahead to the next five or ten years, what do you see is the major issues emerging now and then?

Keith Webber

Well we both live in the south west peninsula and it was only on the radio this week in fact that basically there are no power stations in the south west, or at least there won’t be very shortly, so we’re relying on importing power from other parts of the country who in turn rely on the energy to power their power stations from other countries.  So there’s a whole energy security issue here, as well as the climate thing which obviously is very important, well that’s the most important thing of course, but energy security is another really important thing.  So moving forwards, I personally think it would be an excellent idea to make every community responsible for producing all or at least some of their own electricity, because I think what you’d find is you’d only need half as much.  It’s just too easy to press the socket, flick the switch and out it comes, there’s no consideration to how that electricity’s produced.  But if you see a few wind turbines popping on your doorstep and you don’t like them you’ll ask the question why are they there, and if the connection is made that it’s electricity, the more you waste the more wind turbines you get, I think we could seriously reduce our use if every community had to produce their own, that’s the bottom line.  So I think that’s the way I’d like to see it go anyway and we’d all become much wiser users.

Gill Harper

I also think that the local authority have got a big part to play in the government in introducing more incentives for people, communities to do it.  Yeah, I think they’ve got a real big part to play and I think they’ve been sitting quiet too long and they need to take some responsibility and help us make our way forward.

Interviewer

Thinking specifically about opportunity as it relates to the education sector, what would you say is the greatest avenue for change?

Gill Harper

I think there needs to be funding opportunities, real funding opportunities.  There’s too many barriers put in people’s way at the moment.  Guidance and support so that people can move forward and have the expertise they need at hand.  I’ve had quite a struggle getting the advice and support I need, I feel it should be more readily available.

Keith Webber

Yeah, I think I’d agree with everything that Gill’s just said.  And I think the other thing actually, we’ve still got a massive job on our hands educating people about this agenda, or informing them about this.  I mean I think within schools the students are well clued up but maybe people of my age and the generation above me, perhaps because they’re not in the educational system at the moment, aren’t really aware of the issues.  So I think enlightening people to the problems that we’re going to face.

Interviewer

And you would say the place to do this is with the children?

Gill Harper

Definitely.

Interviewer

Let the children take the message to the parents, is that the idea?

Gill Harper

I do I think the pupil’s voice is so important on this issue.

Keith Webber

Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Interviewer

Okay, well this is fantastic, let me just ask you one more question before we go and wrap up, well two more questions actually.  First question would be how would you feel if some of your students were to actually take roles in governance at this stage, could you see that happening?

Keith Webber

Do you mean within the school?

Interviewer

Within the local community.

Keith Webber

Oh right.  Well we already do have this in my school.  We have a school energy panel that involves staff, students, governors and so they do have a say there, so it already happens to an extent.

Gill Harper

We have a large eco team which is pupils, governors, local residents, so again they have a voice in our energy management plan and a way to go forward with it.

Interviewer

That’s amazing, wonderful and forward looking.

Keith Webber

It’s going to work better if they are part of the plan or if they develop it themselves because obviously the greater the student involvement the more likely any initiative is to succeed.  It’s the bottom up thing again, it’s going to be much more successful that way certainly within a school.

Interviewer

Well one final question for you then, are you, as you look forward to the next ten years would you say you’re an optimist or a pessimist when you look ahead?

Gill Harper

I think you’ve got to be an optimist to drive it forward, you’ve got to be optimistic to make something work.

Keith Webber

I’m outwardly pessimistic but inwardly optimistic.  It just pays to try and encourage people along I think. It depends who I’m talking to as well, for some people you have to be optimistic and others you have to be pessimistic depending on where they’re coming from and what their point of view is.

Gill Harper

And I don’t think, we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t optimistic really.

Keith Webber

No, we are optimists.

Gill Harper

Yes.

11’24”

Become a Creative Climate diarist

 

Author

Ratings

Share

Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?