Abbey Multi Academy Trust in Leeds awarded £5m from the government for mass decarbonisation scheme

A Leeds based academy trust has been awarded a £5m grant to reduce carbon emissions produced by its eight schools across West Yorkshire.

The allocation from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which is funded by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is thought to be the largest grant to an educational establishment and is set to save the trust more than £84,000 per year.

The Grant Scheme provided £1bn of grant funding which aligns with BEIS’ priorities: fighting coronavirus, backing business, unleashing innovation and tackling climate change. The scheme also encourages green investment, supporting the government’s net-zero and clean growth goals.

Proposals put forward by the Abbey Multi-Academy Trust met the criteria for funding and it is hoped that the technology and infrastructure works, to reduce carbon emissions at its eight schools, will be finished just after Christmas.

The government has awarded the Abbey MAT Trust £5m to make its school buildings and culture more sustainable and solar panels is one of the measures being introduced.

David Ryder is Head of IT and Infrastructure at Abbey Multi-Academy Trust and when he took on the responsibility for estates last year, his key focus was pursuing a sustainable infrastructure.

He said: "I did a little bit of research and found out the government were doing decarbonisation grants. I started getting some things together but had a really short window to put a bid in. It could have been just about LED lights but we went all in. The bid was to replace the eight heating systems, we had the criteria and we were successful."

The government grant will fund air source heat pumps, hot water distribution pipework, heating improvements, solar panels.

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The Bishop Young C of E Academy is in the Abbey MAT's portfolio of eight schools undergoing climate infrastructure changes.

It is estimated the technologies installed will reduce 9,156 tonnes of carbon emissions and save £84,855 annually which the trust can put back into its education provision.

It said the grant will save on school’s energy costs and free up capital which will be reinvested in resources for pupils. Each school will be able to invest in additional learning materials for pupils and allocate more budget to physical improvements to classrooms.

When students returned to the classrooms in September this year following the summer holidays assemblies were held to explain the purpose of these changes and works taking place as well as to teach children about carbon reduction and cost savings.

All Abbey MAT schools have a robust recycling programme, which helps reduce waste produced in classrooms. In 2019, 63 per cent of 11-18 year olds in the UK said the environment was their biggest concern in a YouGov study and with students feeling so passionately about the issue of sustainability there is an ‘Eco Club’ at one of the schools, which has been expanded throughout the trust.

Mr Ryder added: "I had a vision for sustainability and it has been on the cards for a while. It is very difficult in the way that we are funded, the money is just not there for the infrastructure so this was a golden opportunity.

"We are a big in terms of buildings, pupils and staff. We are a big user in terms of energy. Getting the funding has been really important. There is a big carbon saving as you can see in the figures. We have 5,000 students across the trust and it is such an opportunity to teach them about sustainability and it has been a catalyst to get them enthused."

The Abbey Multi-Academy Trust has two secondary schools in Leeds - Abbey Grange and Bishop Young; four primaries, Christ Church Upper Armley, Holy Trinity at Rothwell, St Chad's Primary in West Park and Manston St James at Cross Gates; and the Lightcliffe Academy and Lightcliffe C of E Primary School in Halifax.

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