An Edinburgh school has beaten off competition from around the United Kingdom to be shortlisted for a top energy award. Currie Community High School is the only Scottish entry to be recognised at the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy 2009.
The school will compete in the Schools Award category for up to £15,000 in prize money. The winners will be announced at a ceremony hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales in London on 11 June.
The Currie school has taken strides in reducing energy use over the past 10 years. It was the first school in Edinburgh to install a wind turbine and a solar thermal system, with financial support from the council.
"Sustainable energy issues are core to the school's day-to-day practice," says Currie Community High School Headteacher Kate Paton. "Pupils have patrolled the classrooms, switching off lights and appliances; use energy monitors to track energy use; and make pledges to save energy at home. Their Energy Group has reduced lighting wastage alone by 5%."
Currie School's building itself reflects the school's green commitment: 2,000 lights have been upgraded to low-energy designs; windows have been sealed and doors replaced to reduce heat loss, and the boiler is switched off for several months of the year. Solar thermal panels heat the school swimming pool.
Sustainable energy activities are embedded across different curriculum areas and year groups: all first year pupils are taught about sustainability in the curriculum programme ‘Education for Sustainable Development'; in science, they investigate electricity generation and the advantages and disadvantages of different sources of energy.
In art and design classes, students designed a mural showing wind turbines working in harmony with nature, which was the Scottish winner of a competition to design a mural to promote sustainable living. The mural was displayed at Edinburgh Waverley rail station - and at its launch, pupils took the opportunity to question travellers about the sustainability of their lifestyles.
To support its sustainable development activities, Currie High employs a part-time environmental co-ordinator, Alison Nind, who works closely with Phill Pache, the school's business manager.
Investment in sustainable energy technologies at the school has been managed by the City of Edinburgh Council in partnership with the school. The Council has provided funding from its own budget and secured grants for the wind turbine and solar thermal panels. In addition, it has negotiated a green tariff electricity for the school through a Council-wide contract with Scottish and Southern Energy.
Currie High also draws on local expertise - it is close to Heriot-Watt University, and two staff members from the university have advised the school on sustainable energy, and on recording and display of data from renewable energy devices.