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Durham Cassop school

Integrating sustainable energy technologies with education


Cassop Primary School is situated in open fields midway between two villages in Durham County in the UK. In a drive to become carbon neutral, over the last eight years the school has erected a wind turbine; replaced an oil boiler with a biomass boiler; and installed solar thermal and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and various energy efficiency measures. Pupils take the lead as energy ‘monitors’ and act as informative guides for visitors interested in the school’s impressive achievements. The school’s philosophy is based on sustainability and the knowledge gained from utilising sustainable energy technologies has been integrated into the curriculum.

Building details

Type of building: Primary school
Year of construction: The school was built around 1912 but the interior was completely refurbished in 1972.
Heating and cooling installed: In 2003 the old oil boiler was replaced with an automated wood-pellet boiler.

A solar thermal system has also been installed for water heating.

Energy/Water and CO2 label: The Display® ratings for Cassop school in 2005/06 and 2006/07 were:

_ The school is maintaining their excellent ‘Class A’ rating for CO2 emissions and has improved their energy rating from E to D. The water rating went from D to F. One of the causes of this has been identified as a dripping tap and the school is currently looking to fix this. This shows the value of the Display® campaign for identifying minor problems such as this, which might otherwise go unnoticed. Another reason for the drop in the water rating is that water consumption has increased because of the increase in the number of visitors to the school to see and learn about the school’s sustainable technologies. Durham County Council is currently working with Northumbrian Water (a water provider) on a rainwater recycling scheme to flush the toilets and the urinal.

Project description

Aim Cassop Primary School aims to become carbon neutral by installing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies. The sustainability philosophy of the school and the knowledge gained from utilising sustainable energy technologies are integrated into the curriculum for students.
Key points

Sustainable energy programme

A programme to improve the sustainability of the school’s energy use began in 1995. So far, the following actions have been undertaken:

- In 1995 traditional light bulbs were replaced with compact fluorescents (CFLs)

- A recycling drive was undertaken

- Cavity wall insulation was installed

- In 1998 a 50 kW wind turbine was installed, which generates about 50 MWh of electricity per year (see below for further details)

- In 2003 the old oil boiler was replaced with an automated wood-pellet boiler, which burns pellets produced locally from recycled waste wood

Wood-pellet boiler

_ - Suspended ceilings in classrooms were replaced and more efficient lighting was installed

- In 2005 a photovoltaic (PV) array was installed on a south-facing roof including a safety rail and stairs to allow access for visitors

- A solar thermal system was installed for water heating

The "Energy Team" with the solar PV array


Wind turbine


The Durham County Council Renewable Energy Strategy (January 1995) identified twenty four sites where wind energy could be used to supply electricity. The strategy recommended that "the County Council determine feasibility of a demonstration wind turbine at a school or suitable Durham County Council building and if feasible, install it."

Cover for the renewable energy strategy

_ Cassop Primary School was chosen because of its ideal situation and conditions.

The turbine was erected in February 1999 as a joint partnership between Durham County Council and Northern Electric, an energy supplier. The 50 kW wind turbine generates about 50 MWh of electricity per year. Overall, this meets the electricity demand of the school, although much of the output is generated out of school hours and is therefore exported to the grid. The control panel for the wind turbine includes a visual indication panel, which is housed in the school reception.

Students with the wind turbine

The control panel for the wind turbine in the school reception


Sustainable energy and environmental education

Cassop Primary School has integrated education on sustainable energy use and environmental care into their curriculum, with a broader focus on social responsibility. The school uses their renewable energy technologies as educational tools. An interactive display in a corridor shows where the current energy demand lies and how it is being supplied, and Year 6 pupils can confidently explain what is happening. This display was started when the wind turbine was installed, and pupils monitor readings from the wind turbine and keep the display up-to-date. Maths is taught using energy data from the wind turbine, and sustainable energy posters are designed in art.

This focus on education for sustainability extends beyond the school’s boundary. About six other schools visit Cassop School each term to take part in energy and environmental activities, which use classroom demonstration equipment as well as the full-scale renewable energy systems. Cassop also has links with schools in other European countries and in Kenya, which focus on energy and the environment, and exchange visits have been made.

Pupils give confident presentations and tours to visitors, and have also given external talks, including one to a full session of the County Council. Politicians have been questioned both at home and in Europe, as part of an international project. Children also wrote, produced and performed a theatrical lecture on climate change, which toured to Newcastle and London.

A Sustainability Committee (Green Team) made up of students meets at least once each term to monitor energy use and display this to check systems and to offer suggestions (e.g. water saving taps).

The environmental education programme

The environmental education programme incorporates the topics of renewable/sustainable energy, waste and recycling, and ecology. The focus is on practical, hands-on experiences, and includes children seeing and touching solar thermal panels, making and testing tiny solar PV cells and small turbines, and undertaking field trips to the local landfill site and nature reserves.

Durham Cassop school
Visiting children make and test small turbines in a wind tunnel

_ The programme aims to:

- Allow groups of all ages to become more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about environmental issues

- Make the connections between the quality of the environment and people’s actions (i.e. to understand sustainability)

- Provide the opportunity to introduce global issues in a responsible and constructive way (i.e. with some potential solutions!)

- Give children a chance to work and learn through first-hand experiences

- Provide opportunities for other groups to make use of facilities the school has developed

- Provide the school with the potential to reach and educate more people

- Influence the immediate community and decision makers at all levels

Reasons for inclusion as Shining Example Sustainable energy use and environmental care form the core ethos for Cassop Primary School. This is reflected in their use of several types of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures and in how the knowledge gained from these technologies is used to educate students from both within the school and from visiting schools. The community was also involved in the consultation process for the wind turbine and in this way the school has managed to raise awareness of renewable energy technologies.

Costs and benefits

Costs and funding The wind turbine was jointly funded by Durham County Council and Northern Electric.

Some of the renewable technology installations are difficult to justify purely in terms of financial payback. However it is the educational payback that is the real long term benefit.

The biomass boiler cost €55,000 (£37,000) plus €30,000 (£20,000) for the pipe work. This was partly grant funded. A new boiler was needed regardless of the move to a biomass boiler.

The solar PV system cost €24,000 (£16,000), of which €11,000 (£7,200) was funded by a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Major PV Demonstration Programme, which aimed create a long-term, sustained and viable market for solar PV.

Benefits There are many benefits associated with having sustainable energy technologies, such as the wind turbine, installed at the school. These technologies serve to:

- Demonstrate that renewable technologies such as small-scale wind power can be acceptable and practical

- Contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions

- Provide students in northeast England with practical examples of sustainable technology

- Provide information and provoke debate about sustainability and issues such as air pollution and global warming

- Allow local children to learn about the science and technology of electricity generation from the wind and sun

- Save money on electricity bills in the long term

Partnership details

Partners and roles Many people have contributed to the achievements of Cassop school. Jim McManners, the Headteacher, has led the programme on sustainable energy, but teachers, governors and the caretaker all play key roles. The wind turbine was erected as a joint partnership between Durham County Council and Northern Electric, an energy supplier.

Its installation involved a community consultation carried out by the students, which showed 98% support for the project. Any major changes to the school property have to be carried out with the agreement of Durham County Council as the Local Education Authority, and this has provided considerable support for both the wind turbine and the biomass boiler installations.


In 1998, Cassop Primary School was the winner of the Tetrapak Award for Environmental Teaching in Primary Schools. The school has also recently won an award from the Environmental Department of Durham County Council for the garden they have cultivated.

In 2006 Cassop Primary School was a joint winner of the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in Schools. This award is open to any UK school that has created a sustainability ethos in which the responsible use and generation of energy is a key component. The prize money from this award is being used to equip a classroom as an energy laboratory, for use as a new, effective teaching resource. This ties in to the school’s ’Business Plan’ to make the school carbon-neutral.

In 2007 the school won both the Department for Children, Schools and Family (formerly DfES) Sustainable Schools Award for North East and Cumbria, as well as the Journal Award for Sustainable Education.

Lessons learned The excellent examples of practical sustainable energy systems that Cassop school have installed might be beyond the means of many schools. What is most replicable, and at the core of their success, is the ethos of caring for the environment, and using energy resources wisely.

To know more

Organistation name Durham County Council
Contact Jeff Kirton
Phone +44 (0)191 383 3749

Useful info

Websites (links)

Video (Link)
Arrangements to visit Email or call Jim McManners, Headteacher, Cassop Primary School

Phone: +44 (0)191 377 02 93

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