Put energy into fairer funding

30th March 2007 at 01:00
The rise of the eco-friendly school in Wales is epitomised this week by the sterling efforts of pupils as young as five at Barry Island primary school in the Vale of Glamorgan (see page 3). A saving of pound;350 on the annual bill is huge. But the school is not alone in the many examples of good practice energy-conserving ideas across Wales which frequently drop into the Cymru inbox.

Both schools and pupils are doing their bit to meet efficiency savings thrust on them by local authorities. Many would call them cuts. Barry Island primary has undoubtedly benefited from the Eco-schools programme, along with 1,399 other schools in the country. And when you consider that pound;450 million is spent on energy UK-wide - three times as much as on the cost of books - the need for the programme is well and truly justified.

Whatever way you look at it, pound;20,000 - the sum that green agencies reckon it costs for an annual water bill in a large secondary school - is a frightening amount, even with rising costs. Energy wasters in the throwaway generation beware - your days of leaving lights on are numbered.

However, while school leaders, teachers, parents and even five-year-olds are doing their best to save money in the budget - something heads will be only too aware of at this time of year - it is also evident that school leaders still complain of a real shortage of funds at the chalkface compared with England.

Is this down to unfair portions meted out by the ever-controversial Barnett formula? A new team of heads, doctors and sustainable transport enthusiasts set out this week to prove that it is, and called for a full inquiry on the scale of the Richard Commission.

Let's just hope they don't use energy-saving light bulbs, or even candles, to sweat over the information they will need to decipher to help clear Wales's legendary funding fog. They may be there forever.

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