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£450 million project to improve school buildings begins

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Over 1,000 school building improvement projects have received a green light as part of plans to boost the condition of the school estate, with energy efficiency a key goal.

859 academies, sixth-form colleges and voluntary aided schools every region of the country will receive a share of a £456 million pot created to help refurbish and repair school buildings.

The funding will ensure that pupils can learn in safe, warm and energy efficient classrooms.

Overall, the government has committed £1.8 billion of capital funding for the financial year 2023-24 to improve the condition of school buildings – including £1.1 billion for local authorities, large multi-academy trusts and voluntary aided bodies announced in March.

The Department has allocated over £15 billion since 2015 to support the government’s priority for schools to have safe, well-maintained facilities that support a high-quality education for pupils.

The announcement follows on from 239 new school buildings confirmed in December as part of the Schools Rebuilding Programme, with 400 out of 500 schools and sixth form colleges now been selected for rebuilds through the ten-year programme.

Minister for the School System, Baroness Diana Barran MBE said: “Our Condition Improvement Fund has already completed over eleven thousand projects, making a difference to pupils and teachers across the country. These projects help to create safer learning environments that make a difference to the quality of education for pupils.

“It’s hugely important that every school has access to high-quality learning facilities and these funding allocations will make sure that responsible bodies can start to plan ahead and get projects started to replace roofs, boilers and windows – so pupils and teachers can learn and work in a comfortable space.”

‘Energy-positive’ classrooms arrive in Swansea

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Swansea University has opened the first energy-positive classroom, generating more than one and a half times the energy that it consumed in its first year.

The Active Classroom, named Project of the Year by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RCIS) Wales, took eight months to build and uses a mix of technologies to create as much energy output as possible.

Now proven, it’s hoped that the technique can be set for a wider roll-out.

The steel roofs have integrated photovoltaic (solar) cells connected to batteries with enough capacity to provide several days of power. The building also features steel cladding to capture solar heat energy, as well as an electrically heated floor coating.

Discussing the project, Professor David Worsley, Swansea University, said: “The idea that a building has to consume power to survive is a bit 20th century. We can generate up to 50% more power from a building than it uses.

“If we make buildings that generate more power than they use, over time, the built environment can play its part in decarbonisation.”

The Active Classroom was designed and built by the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University. Another pioneering initiative by the university, Project SUNRISE, aims to put solar energy and new technologies into 5 villages in India, allowing them to become energy self-sufficient, through a £7 million consortium of UK and Indian universities. 

SPECIFIC was set up in 2011 with a five-year £20 million commitment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and the Welsh Government, along with investment from Swansea University and industrial partners.

The second phase of the project began in April 2016 with £26 million funding from EPSRC, Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

Following the success of the Active Classroom as a demonstrator, Innovate UK supported the construction of SPECIFIC’s Active Office, opened in June 2018, which accommodates 30 members of staff and can share solar energy with the neighbouring Active Classroom.

Hydrogen Hub & Arval launch education resource for schools

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A new set of teaching resources focusing on hydrogen and fuel cell technology have been created by Arval, part of the BNP Paribas banking group.

Developed in partnership with the Hydrogen Hub, the education pack supports the Chemistry element of Triple Science for GCSE students, providing teachers with a learning resource that is downloadable online. 

The pack introduces pupils to fuel cells as a solution to tackling climate change. Following a launch at two Swindon-based schools, Bradon Forest and Nova Hreod Academy, the resource is available to view and download on the teacher resource website TES.

Pupils at the Swindon launch, which is where Arval’s UK Head Office is based, were able to see a variety of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, and get their hands on a fuel cell provided by Fuel Cell Systems, as part of lessons delivered by the Hydrogen Hub team.

The partnership between the three organisations is set to continue throughout 2019 with a set of hydrogen roadshows at 5 venues across the country planned for later in the year. The transport-focussed events will give businesses, and the general public, the chance to see, ride in and learn about hydrogen powered vehicles. 

Rory Mathews from the Hydrogen Hub, said: “As a former teacher and Teach First Ambassador I know the quality of resources produced by industry specialists can be extremely high. Often though, the topics covered are not those that need to be taught in schools and so these resources get overlooked. It has been a pleasure to have been given the opportunity by Arval to produce this fuel cells lesson pack. I am confident that using our specialist knowledge at the Hydrogen Hub and tailoring the content to cover crucial exam content we have produced a resource that delivers high-quality learning for students and is extremely valuable to teachers.”

Dr Jannine Clapp, Head of Science from Nova Hreod Academy, said: “Having the opportunity to see first-hand how technology can be used for cars in a real world application was a real bonus for our triple science students. And this lesson along with the excellent resources created by Arval, Hydrogen Hub and Fuel Cell Systems for schools will help support the scientists of the future. Thank you for coming in to share with our school.”

Arval, which leases more than 165,000 vehicles in the UK, joined the Hydrogen Hub in 2017 to better understand the practicalities of operating hydrogen vehiclesthrough real-world use, and quickly became Chair of the Car Working Group.

At the same time, as part of BNP Paribas, the company says it is committed to supporting the transition into cleaner vehicles, positively serving the UK economy and investing in initiatives which benefit UK society.

Tracey Fuller, Head of CSR for BNP Paribas said: “As one of the UK’s largest vehicle leasing companies, new vehicle technology is high on our agenda, and an important tool for businesses and individuals looking to reduce their environmental impact. It’s also really well aligned with our commitment to make a positive impact on the UK economy, and wider society, so we saw a great opportunity to use our relationship with the Hydrogen Hub to educate the next generation in the role that hydrogen technology can play.”

ABM UK announces first J.E.E.P graduates

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Thirty-six school children from West London graduated from the world’s first Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P), which first started in January 2018.

The programme seeks to change perceptions of apprenticeships and make a real impact in the engineering and facilities management sectors by making use of the expertise offered by ABM UK employees.

The graduation follows research highlighting that sixty per cent of young people were unlikely to consider working in the engineering and facilities management industries, fuelling the creation of a skills gap.

Students from Northolt High School, Brentside High School and Featherstone High School presented their final projects, exploring how schools can be more sustainable, at ABM’s training centre in Greenford.

Each student has been awarded an official commendation from certified industry body, the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM, formerly BIFM).

Adam Baker, ABM UK director, said: “We have a responsibility as an industry to engage young people and demonstrate the attractive careers available, whether you are entering the industry through an apprenticeship or a university degree. The first year of our J.E.E.P initiative is a fantastic step towards doing this and we’re delighted that it’s been such a success.

“We set out to change perceptions of technical careers and the feedback from our students has been overwhelmingly positive. There’s clear evidence that exposing young people to the realities of the job, coupled with the right education, can transform how careers in engineering and facilities management are viewed. I wish the thirty-six young people every success in the future.”

Linda Hausmanis, Chief Executive of the IWFM, said: “The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (formerly BIFM) is delighted to support ABM UK in this initiative. Today’s graduation marks an important moment for the industry – it’s a step towards making apprenticeships in facilities management a stronger proposition for young people looking at career choices, and compliments IWFM’s work to reposition the FM profession as a career of choice not chance.

“There’s a serious skills gap in the industry, which can only be plugged if we pull together to highlight the fulfilling end careers we can offer. We look forward to next year when the programme aims to engage even more young people in careers in workplace and facilities management.”

Over the course of the year, students studied a syllabus comprising of 10 modules that cover the basic principles of engineering and facilities management. Topics such as heating, security and customer services were also included alongside theories of induction, electricity and energy. The course also allowed students to visit The London Transport Museum Depot and Heathrow Airport to explore the everyday reality of jobs in engineering and facilities management.

Morgan from Northolt High School said: “When I started the J.E.E.P course I had heard the word ‘apprentice’ before but I wasn’t sure what an apprenticeship was, or what a career in facilities management was. Now I understand about what careers are available and also what they are about. I’m even thinking about being an electrician when I’m older.”

Speaking of the value of apprenticeships in her role as J.E.E.P ambassador, Stemettes co-founder and CEO Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon said: “University is often publicised as the ‘only’ route but this is not true. Apprenticeships are a fantastic viable alternative, which allows young people to earn while they learn and then, often before they are 20 years of age, have debt-free foundations from which to build a solid, well-paid career. Not enough people know about the breadth and availability of apprenticeships; Initiatives such as the J.E.E.P positively profile the virtues of technical careers and engage young people in the options available to them at an age when they are forming views on their career paths.”

J.E.E.P is supported by industry partners including HelistratSMI WorkwearElectric CentreWestbury FiltermationTrinity Security and Fire and Diversey.