PV panels have been fitted to the roof of Bussage Church of England Primary School after a 10-year-old schoolgirl inspired her local community to take action on the environment.
Josie Tomlinson, currently in Year 5, read about Greta Thunberg’s mission to speak out for the environment, which started when she was just 11 years old. Concerned by the environmental crisis, Josie decided that she wanted to do something significant to help.
She said, “I wanted to do something to help as I felt that we just weren’t doing enough. I can’t have solar panels on my house at home because it’s a listed building, so I thought we could get them on the school. I put together a petition for solar panels on the school roof and 110 children signed it.”
Josie took the petition to Mr Andy Ferguson (Co-Head) who brought it to the attention of the school governors. There was universal support for the scheme, but they needed to raise the money to make the plans a reality. After getting some quotes, they approached the Diocesan Board of Education to find out if they would fund the project.
David Williams, Principal Advisor for Buildings, Admissions and Trusts, explained that there is a pot of money available from the Department of Education, to Voluntary-Aided (VA) schools, which he manages on behalf of the DBE.*
He said, “The priority for the grant is to ensure that each school building is safe (i.e. health and safety, compliance, safeguarding, condition projects) and can serve the children and staff in an effective learning environment. Where funds allow, the grant can also support carbon reduction projects, e.g. PV panels.
“Each year, VA schools make an application, including the reasons why they feel their school should be awarded the grant and how it would benefit the children in their school. These applications are then scrutinised by the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE). This year, we had a very high number of applications and if we had agreed to all of them we would have spent our grant twice over. Each project is then ranked based on need as well as the likely impact in schools.”
“…increasing HOPE for the future.”
The DBE was particularly impressed with the application from Bussage School as it included a significant contribution from the children.
The school’s application read, “We will be able to involve our School Parliament, Eco Ministry and the whole school in better understanding climate change and environmental issues, and use this project as an example of practical ways of facing that challenge, thus increasing HOPE for the future.”
The DBE committed to funding 90 percent of the project, leaving the school to fundraise for the remaining 10 percent.
The Parent and Teachers Association said they were willing to find some money towards the total, and the governors also said they could find some money for the project, but while this was happening, excitement was growing among the other children in the school. The school’s Eco Ministry and Charity Ministry teams put their heads together to think of ways to raise money, planning a sponsored Race to the Sun, 5 miles (18 laps around the school field) for every child.
Josie also walked up Scafell Pike with her family, raising an additional £590 towards the project. She said, “All my family and friends sponsored me, plus we put up posters and even some people we didn’t know sponsored me.”
“When I was on the field with everyone around me, Racing for the Sun, I was so glad and happy. I knew that everyone was really trying to make it happen.”
The children ended up raising more than the remaining 10 percent themselves, without needing to ask any other organisations for support.
Over the summer, 34 PV panels were installed, which are now supplying power to the school. Josie’s dream was celebrated with a special trophy for her environmental work presented to her at the school’s leavers assembly.
Josie’s enthusiasm for the environment is still as strong as ever – she’s been reading a book called Fantastically great women who saved the planet by Kate Pankhurst, and has learnt about the Great Green Wall in Africa.
She said, “I’ve found out that my grandad was involved in a project planting trees in the Savannah in Africa and so my next project is to start raising money for Tree Aid.”
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*Academy Church schools access this directly from the Department for Education and Gloucestershire County Council manages the grant for our Voluntary Controlled schools.