Academy Trusts joining campaign to reach net zero

Image: Bellevue Academy Trust

Academy Trusts are proving to be a formative part of the UK education sector’s response to climate change, says Let’s Go Zero, the campaign which supports schools to be zero carbon by 2030.

Schools from 389 Multi-Academy Trusts are now signed up to Let’s Go Zero with the largest trust in England signing up nearly 100 schools in one go.

Let’s Go Zero are encouraging academies to join the campaign this academic year – following on from 95 that joined so far this year. More than 2,300 schools are signed up to the campaign in the UK.

Alex Green, Head of Let’s Go Zero, says academies have the opportunity to be highly impactful in terms of climate action -  sharing learning between the trust schools quickly and efficiently, and trialling initiatives in one or two schools before rolling out to the rest of the Trust: “Multi-Academy Trusts can take advantage of the support of the resources and experience of each other very effectively and use that learning to replicate low carbon initiatives across all their schools.

“They also have a huge demonstration effect – to students, teachers and the wider community – and can have a really positive impact on the local economy in terms of building contracts for installing renewable energy, retrofitting the schools to be more energy efficient, and sourcing as much of the schools’ equipment, food and resources locally as possible.”

Academies joining Let’s Go Zero range from as small as five schools in a trust, such as The Learning Life Partnership, to the largest trust in England- United Learning Trust - that currently encompasses 94 schools and includes schools across the country from Carlisle to the South Coast.

In 2019 the United Learning Trust created an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030 and made a commitment to have a positive impact on their local communities, on the national education system and on the wider world. United Learning have ensured their carbon neutral ambition is a high priority agenda for their Headteachers by presenting their research, data and plans, as well as sharing good practice from across the schools and beyond, at their termly Headteacher face-to-face meetings.

Each school has a ‘Carbon Neutral Champion’ who is responsible for the day-to-day responsibility at school level, yet they also have a trust-wide team with representatives from each department including all Carbon Neutral Champions, who monitor progress to achieving goals and report regularly to the Executive Board.

The United Learning Trust has taken steps to reduce its carbon emissions and engage the whole student and staff body. Actions include switching to a 100 per cent renewable electricity provider for all schools in the trust, running an energy saving week every January, and adapting their primary school curriculum to include a sustainability focus. They will be doing the same for their secondary school curriculum this year a as well as introducing one meat free day a week into every school and create a ‘green directory’ or ‘preferred supplies’ list for staff to use with the ambition to introduce a sustainability clause into all new procurement contracts from 2025.

Bellevue Academy Trust, which manages 10 schools in London and Berkshire, has partnered with eEnergy to reduce their carbon footprint and work towards their net zero goal by 2030. They have switched to a 100 per cent renewable electricity tariff and with support from eEnergy, five of the Trust’s schools have now replaced their old, inefficient lights with new LED lighting and nine out of the ten schools in the Trust, now also have solar panels installed saving the Trust £1.5 milllion a year.

Richard Crompton, Director of Operations at Bellevue said: “With some of the things we’ve done – we’ve had to invest to save. There is a danger out there that trusts don’t optimise the buying power of the educational institutions. We do need more collaboration between trusts.”