Children at a Morecambe school are getting closer to nature with the help of a four-figure grant from a renewable energy firm.
Morecambe Road School has installed a new decking platform which is enabling pupils to access a wildlife area and dipping pond within its grounds in a safe and supervised way.
A £2,500 grant from the community benefits fund linked to Banks Renewables’ nearby Heysham South wind farm enabled the school, which teaches local children with a range of special educational needs, to go ahead with the project.
The wind farm has now been running for four years and generates over 23,600 MW of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 6,060 homes, and by doing so, it displaces over 26,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.
The pond is already successfully being used as the setting for lessons including science and art, as well as a relaxing location in which pupils, families and teachers can spend time observing the natural environment.
The new facilities will also remain in use over the summer through the holiday club that the school runs for the wider community.
Morecambe Road School has just over 150 pupils aged from 3-16 years old on its roll, and holds the Eco-Schools Green Flag, an internationally-recognised award for excellence in environmental action and learning.
This accreditation involves the development of a detailed action plan and external assessment of the school’s policies, procedures and caring culture, with an Eco Council involving pupils from years five to 11 working together on a range of environmental and well-being projects, including around horticulture, recycling and healthy lifestyles.
Fiona Gill, school business manager at Morecambe Road School, says: “We have quite large grounds which include a fenced-off pond area that wasn’t really playing any useful role and wanted to find a way to use it as a learning resource, as well as to provide a more hands-on way for the children to find out about their local environment, the wider natural world and biodiversity.
“There’s a real sense of excitement among the children when they’re going to spend time at the dipping pond – it’s a new interactive way of learning for them and everything they’re seeing at first hand really brings to life what they’re covering in the classroom.
“Our pupils are already developing a real appreciation of and connection with the natural world and they will be able to closely observe how the environment changes as the seasons pass.
“There are always lots of essential costs to cover within schools, meaning this sort of project can get left behind without outside help. It would probably have taken another five years of fundraising to bring in the money required to do this on our own and the support we’ve had from Banks Renewables will make a terrific different to our school and the children we’ll be teaching for many years to come.”
A community benefits fund worth at least £300,000 across the 25-year lifespan of the Heysham South wind farm formed part of the scheme’s overall development package, and was designed to enable Banks Renewables to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people.
The fund is ring-fenced for use within the parishes of Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, Heysham, Middleton and Overton, although projects in adjoining areas which benefit people living in these parishes may also be considered.
A funding committee comprised of local people and supported by a dedicated fund manager from the Banks Community Fund team sits every few months to assess the applications it receives.
The latest research by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that public support for onshore wind was at a record high level of 83%, even though it is still excluded by Ministers from competing for Government-backed contracts to generate power.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “This is a fantastic project that will open up a whole new view on the world for the Morecambe Road children and will give them the chance to find out so much more about the environment around them.
“It’s a brilliant use of some of the revenues generated by the Heysham South wind farm and exactly the sort of positive community scheme we had in mind for the benefits fund.”
The maximum individual grant from the Heysham South Wind Farm community benefits fund is £3,000. Anyone interested in applying to the fund should contact James Eaglesham on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.