'Fuel Poverty Community Champions – bringing a village together’ – the school’s perspective
Unbelievably in the 21st Century, an estimated 6 million households in the UK cannot afford to heat their homes to a reasonable standard for health and comfort! Households which are particularly affected are those that do not have access to mains gas which is the cheapest fuel for heating accommodation and water at present. To try to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency in off-gas villages in England, Calor UK is providing support to produce an energy audit of nominated off-gas villages in England. The programme has the backing of National Energy Action (NEA) and so far 8 village audits have been completed.
Rowena Tyler, a Community Development Officer with Action in rural Sussex (AirS), is coordinating the partnership project in West Sussex. One of the villages involved is Wisborough Green in West Sussex.
To raise awareness of fuel poverty and the identification of characteristics which indicate that a household may fall into this category.
Wisborough Green Parish Council and the local primary school were approached to participate in the project. Both responded with great enthusiasm. A volunteer from ‘Better Tomorrows/Engauge’ (a Community Interest Company), and an ex-local Headteacher were also drafted in.
Action so far
An energy efficiency volunteer produced an informative, visually exciting powerpoint display to be part of an assembly at Wisborough Green Primary School. To appeal to the children some dressing up was involved to demonstrate the need for houses to be ‘warmly dressed’ i.e. Insulated! The volunteer and the ex-Headteacher gave the presentation to about 140 children who were extremely enthusiastic when asked if they wanted to be fuel poverty champions. After the assembly, interested children, of whom there were many, were asked to stay behind and attend a meeting. A teacher from the school had previously been selected to lead the children and she created a list with the children’s help of things they could do to involve the school in this community project.
Outcomes/achievements so far
The children are certainly inspired and are now much more aware of the meaning of ‘fuel poverty’. The school is setting up their Fuel Poverty Champions Group and are drawing up a plan of action (see below for their ideas).
The project was submitted as an entry to the NEA’s Community Footprint Award 2011/12 Competition in December 2011 with the aim of publicising the project but also acquiring some extra funding. It came in as Runner – Up!
The school intends to send out questionnaires which the children will have helped design, as part of an intergenerational project. The focus will be a comparison of how homes were heated in the past and the differences between then and now. They are working on a creative way of presenting these results.
A Community Open Day is planned, again with a focus on Past, Present and Future. One suggestion is for children to be trained by a fuel poverty co-ordinator in the use of the resources available, such as radiator panels and loft insulation, and how to recognise dwellings with/without cavity wall insulation. The children would then demonstrate the resources at the Community Open Day.
Other suggestions could involve the children making draft excluders and knitting squares to sew into blankets.
The project is being mapped to the current curriculum. There are many cross-curricular links which make this project ideal for primary schools. Links can be made to science, geography, history, D&T, English, Maths and of course Citizenship and PSHE. Links to the local community are at the forefront of this project.
The use of technology for the presentation. Hats, scarves, warm clothing. Committed and enthusiastic project leaders!
Links and contacts:
Calor UK - http://www.calor.co.uk/about-calor/why-calor-lpg/sustainability/free/england/
National Energy Action (NEA) - http://www.nea.org.uk/working-with-rural-communities-free-future-of-rural-energy-in-europe/
Action in rural Sussex - http://wwwruralsussex.org.uk
Engauge and Better Tomorrows - http://wwwengaugeonline.co.uk
Wisborough Green, West Sussex - http://www.wisboroughgreen.org
Author: Jacky Casson