One of the winners of this year’s Ashden Sustainable Schools Award was Home Farm primary school in Colchester.  What follows is taken from the Ashden case study which details the school’s success.

The Ashden judging panel said:

“The senior management at Home Farm make a formidable team.  Their attitude to energy savings and renewables should be an inspiration to other schools.”

And Headteacher Richard Potter, commented:

“In the same way that we teach children to manage their money, their education or their behaviour, we also teach them to have sustainable habits because that is going to be key to their lives in the future … as well as their wallets!”

Starting with a challenge

Home Farm Primary School is located in a suburban area on the outskirts of Colchester.  There are 210 students aged between 4 and 11.  The school was built in 1966 in a single storey, prefabricated modular design.  When Richard Potter, took over at Home Farm, he was faced with an inefficient building and large energy bills.

He had previously been employed at a newly constructed school, which had been designed with many sustainable and energy saving features, and he had experienced both the financial and environmental benefits of a heating system which could be controlled and managed properly.

The overall challenge was to create a sustainable learning environment for the students and reduce the school’s energy spend.  A particular problem was that the school had an internal courtyard, which, owing to the layout, meant that heat was continually lost through open doors.

Thinking outside the box

The first change at Home Farm was to enclose the internal courtyard, which created a well-insulated central hub for the school, and avoided unnecessary heat loss.  Between them, the Head and business manager, Ceri Stammers, have turned around a poorly managed heating system and a heat-leaking building to make Home Farm virtually self-sufficient in energy.

Great work all round
Now, the school has an active student Eco Committee, solar panels on the roof and a new building management system has been installed, all contributing to the impressive turnaround in energy efficiency.

It has reduced gas consumption to 60% of what you would expect from a building of this type, and it has seen a 61% reduction in its electricity use.  It is the first primary school in Essex to be awarded a Grade B rating for its DEC Energy Performance Certificate.  As a Year 5 student commented:

“We use the sun as our electricity.”

Here are some key stats:

  • 94% reduction in gas use over 5 years
  • 61% reduction in electricty use over 1 year
  • 25 tonnes CO2 saved each year because of solar panels

Behaviour change

The school is clearly proud of its environmental credentials and staff, both teaching and non teaching, are aware of the importance of energy management.

Teaching staff are responsible for the management of their classrooms including shutting down equipment and turning off lights.  The strong environmental ethos is communciated around the school via assemblies, noticeboards and newletters.


At Home Farm, every year group undertakes an environmental topic during each year. This includes global topics such as Climate Change as well as practical Design Technology projects using solar power. Wherever possible, the school and its environment are used as teaching aids and pupils are actively encouraged to become involved with activities like gardening and meter reading.

The future

The school plans to spend itssavings on continued improvements in lighting and equipment.  It is also investigating solar water heating and considering replacing their boiler with a biomass system.  Additionally, the school plans to continue to share its best practice with others.


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