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Solar panels on the roof of Christ Church School, St Leonards on Sea (Photo by ZR)

Solar panels on the roof of Christ Church School, St Leonards-on-Sea (photo: ZR).

Trail-blazing eco-school

Earlier this week I popped into Christ Church Primary School in St Leonards-on-Sea, writes HOT’s Zelly Restorick, to witness the cutting of the official ribbon to celebrate the installation of a roof-full of solar panels and the generation of their own free energy.

Andrea Needham was the central motivating energy in this exploration of solar power – and it’s taken around four-five years for the idea to come to fruition and materialise, with much time spent planning and researching, delving into the legal sphere of schools and solar panels, health and safety, buying the panels and finding the right people to fit them. However, patience and perseverance paid off – and the school is a trail-blazing eco-beacon for the town. Andrea is a thoughtful, intelligent, practical, direct and courageous school governor and parent. Much respect to her for making this vision manifest.

“This is important for you and for generations to come,” said Andrea to the gathered audience. “It’s good to be green and do whatever we can to be greener and reduce the impact we have on our planet.”

The Mayor about to cut the celebratory ribbon (Photo by ZR)

The mayor about to cut the celebratory ribbon (Photo: ZR).

Co-operation and collaboration

I know Andrea would be the first to say that she didn’t achieve this goal alone. The project also involved the generous-spirited, innovative co-operation and combining of skills, experience, knowledge, financial support and labour of a number of other organisations and individuals, both local and national. Including Pure Leapfrog, the UK’s leading provider of social investment and professional support to community energy projects. Their mission is to ensure that community energy becomes a significant part of the sustainable energy mix in the UK. And Richard Watson of Energise Sussex Coast and member of a school energy co-operative, who offers  people impartial advice on making their lives energy efficient and energy-wise.

“Lots of patience was needed and determination”, explained head teacher Anne Hanney. “It’s a dream come true… When you work hard to get something, it makes it all the more valuable. This is just one school in one town in one county, but we’re really making a difference.”

The school has also taken the initiative to buy an up-to-date fuel efficient boiler and changed their lighting to a more energy efficient system.

Interested in finding out more for your school?

Get in touch with the staff at Christ Church and have a chat. Here’s their website.

A lake of blue and yellow boys and girls (Photo by ZR)

A lake of blue and yellow boys and girls (photo: ZR).

Surveying the school system

Off-at-a-tangent pondering… During the ceremony, I sat at the back of the school hall on a plastic chair, whilst in front of me lay a small moving lake of blue and yellow girls and boys. Nearly all sitting on the floor.

I’ve seen this in other schools too. Kids sitting cross-legged or kneeling on the floor in the school hall. And all I see with my Inner Alien Visitor’s Eyes is inequality and how having a chair seems to be a step up in the world of school hierarchy.

I mean, what would you say if you visited someone’s house and they offered you the floor as your seating area, whilst they sat in chairs? That’s quite a clear symbolic message to me. I’d at least like a mat or a rug to protect my clothes, as I’m not sure if the floor has been washed or swept and certainly there’s a lot of shoe-footfall here, all of which have been outside wandering the pavements.

Here is where the hierarchal training sinks in at another level, I thought: “You are Johnny. I am Miss Brown. You sit on the floor. I sit in a chair. That’s just the way it is.”

How easily and subtly do we indoctrinate these open trusting young minds into the belief system of hierarchy, authority and inequality.

** I clarify, this is an observation of the majority school system, not a comment about any particular school.


Posted 08:54 Saturday, Nov 1, 2014 In: HOT Skool Reportz


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  1. Andrew Freeman

    Great to see the new school coming on. Back in the 1970’s I used to compere the annual school fete in the playground and have fond memories of many lovely people. I wish you every success.

    Comment by Andrew Freeman — Friday, Nov 7, 2014 @ 17:07

  2. Anton Hack

    A great, positive story and visionary project for the local area. Really good to read this. Incidentally, I hated the discomfort of sitting on those hard wooden floors as a kid, and never thought it was a good or civilised idea, and I have the hobbly, knobbly knees to prove it now.

    Comment by Anton Hack — Friday, Nov 7, 2014 @ 09:44

  3. Pete Fairless

    Dear Zelly,

    Thank you for the positive write up. Yes, we’re all very proud of our wonderful new solar panels and extremely grateful to all involved in the project, not least, Andrea.

    Pete Fairless
    Chair of Governors
    Christ Church (CE) Primary School and Nursery
    St Leonards on Sea

    Comment by Pete Fairless — Friday, Nov 7, 2014 @ 00:27

  4. Sally Walton

    Yes Zelly, I understood that.
    However, I think its a pity you added your personal ideology in “Surveying the School System” to your positive reportage piece on Christchurch School. I wonder how many parents take issue with little ones sitting on the floor for assembly.

    Comment by Sally Walton — Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 11:06

  5. Zelly Restorick

    Hey there Sally. Just to clarify… I specifically wrote that my comment re sitting down on the floor was nothing to do with any specific school, but the education system in general. Nor did I suggest that the staff at Christ Church school are authoritarian. Warm wishes,

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 10:23

  6. Sally Walton

    I think you’ll find that children sitting on the floor during assembly has more to do with logistics than hierarchy. A school hall has many uses throughout the school day and if chairs for all the pupils were to be moved in and out it would take time and cause general chaos. Small kids quite like sitting cross legged on the floor and having been to Christchurch School last year to talk to children about recycling and show them an inspiring film I found the atmosphere anything but authoritarian.

    Comment by Sally Walton — Thursday, Nov 6, 2014 @ 09:02

  7. Andrea Needham

    In terms of people helping make it possible, it’s important also to mention Wey Valley Solar Schools Co-operative (http://www.weyvalleysolar.co.uk/), a wonderful organisation run almost entirely by volunteers which has helped several schools in Surrey to get solar panels, and was keen to help a school in a less well off area. They helped us through endless problems and frustrations and we couldn’t have done it without them. It’s probably also worth mentioning that we didn’t buy the panels: they were bought by Wey Valley with a loan from Pure Leapfrog. Wey Valley uses the feed in tariff to pay back the loan, whilst the school benefits from free electricity and also a share of the co-op’s profits.

    Comment by Andrea Needham — Saturday, Nov 1, 2014 @ 11:55

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