20 per cent
Secondary schools could save pound;10,000 to pound;15,000 every year, and primary schools several thousand pounds, by taking simple steps to save gas and electricity, the Carbon Trust has said.
The total amount of energy wasted by schools and colleges every year has been estimated by the trust at up to pound;20 million or 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the entire annual emissions of the city of Durham.
The trust, set up by the Government to help cut carbon emissions, has launched a campaign to reduce the annual energy costs of schools by up to 20 per cent. Free surveys, followed by advice on how to save energy, are being offered to all schools with energy bills of more than pound;50,000.
"Like everyone else, schools have been walloped by huge energy bills," said Jane Beaumont, head of Copthall secondary girls' school in Mill Hill, north London.
"As a geography teacher I have always been interested in doing things as greenly as possible."
A survey over the summer by the Carbon Trust showed that Copthall could make savings of pound;36,000 over three years.
Ms Beaumont has already banished plastic knives and forks, and paper plates, from the canteen. Children have been asked to design stickers and posters to remind people to turn off computers, and some will be soon be recruited as "energy monitors" to go round the school switching things off.
The school's first energy policy will be introduced in the new year, setting out more ways to save money.
"Energy bills for the average secondary school have gone from pound;20,000 to pound;30,000 per year to pound;50,000 to pound;70,000 in the last few years," Peter Hambly, communications director at the Carbon Trust said.
"As a result schools have had less money to spend on books or equipment.
There are easy ways of saving energy. Computers and photocopiers should be turned off when they are not being used. Teachers and support staff should take more responsibility for saving energy. Sometimes people are more sloppy at school than they are at home."
Garry Cash, business manager at Hazel Grove secondary in Stockport, said his school faced massive increases in energy bills, from around pound;70,000 in 20023, to a projected pound;130,000, almost double, next year.
"A lot of it is basic housekeeping," Mr Cash said. "There are a number of teachers who go home leaving the windows open and lights on. We remind them all the time not to. We also encourage teachers and students not to leave PC screens on stand-by. We've got more than 500 PCs at this school, so if they're all left on we're burning one hell of a lot of electricity overnight."
Mr Cash said he was in talks with the local authority to get the boilers, which, like the rest of the school date from the 1950s and 1960s, replaced with more modern, efficient ones.
To arrange a free site survey, schools can call the Carbon Trust's advice line on 0800 917 3030. Information, and energy-saving starter packs, can be obtained from www.carbontrust.co.ukschools