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Building burn

Your excellent article "Building a Future" (TES Magazine, March 14) demonstrates how inadequate government policy is on sustainable schools. The writer, Roderic Bunn, has to make some assumptions to arrive at his conclusions, but there are two other significant factors affecting the carbon footprint of a school which are left unmentioned.

First is the CO2 emission associated with the construction and the building materials. The Victorian building can now spread this carbon deficit - annualised over the life of the building - over more than a century, contrasting with the 1974 school that will probably last for less than half that time before demolition. This adds to the size of its carbon footprint.

Second - and more significant - is the failure to account for the energy associated with additional travel implied by closing small rural schools, building larger schools, or encouraging parents to consider wider area choice.

The European Union target is to reduce average CO2 car emissions by 25 per cent to 120gkm by 2012. Even so, a pupil who is driven one extra kilometre to school (parent drives home and returns to collect in the afternoon = 4km) results in one year (190 attendances) in around 90kg of additional CO2 emitted. That's more than the energy required to service the classroom space that the pupil will occupy.

Michael Willmot, Assistant principal and clerk to the corporation, Newcastle-under-Lyme College, Staffordshire.

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