Spending millions? It'll be a breeze

13th March 2015 at 00:00
Team of students tasked with allocating wind turbine profits

Teaching pupils to manage their finances is an increasingly important part of the curriculum. But students at a school in Dumfries and Galloway have been given an altogether tougher budgeting challenge: spending millions of pounds generated by two new wind turbines.

A team of eight S5 and S6 pupils at Sanquhar Academy will decide how to invest the profits from the turbines at Glenmuckloch Community Energy Park for the benefit of the local area. The Glenmuckloch charitable purposes committee - known as Propel - was launched last week at the school.

The students underwent a rigorous application process to join the committee, and have received advice from representatives of the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT), Hargreaves, Buccleuch Estates and Dumfries and Galloway Council - the four key partners in the energy park project.

The Glenmuckloch park was officially launched by business, energy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing in July 2014. The two 30m turbines are expected to start generating electricity this summer, meaning that the first funding for community projects will available within a matter of months. The turbines have the potential to generate pound;2.5 million in profit over the next 25 years.

According to Emily Lockhart, a principal teacher at Sanquhar Academy, the eight students taking part in the project have already acquired new work and life skills. "It is almost like the experience has been tailored," she said.

Ms Lockhart added that the project was in line with the central recommendations of the Wood Commission. "We feel this is one of the huge ways in which we are contributing to the link between our pupils and getting them in the right place at the right time and towards positive destinations," she said.

The school had already recognised the learning opportunities provided by the scheme and planned to incorporate it into the timetable, Ms Lockhart noted.

Describing the initiative as a "fantastic learning experience for our senior students", headteacher Tom Snow said: "We have seen them develop a new set of skills and attributes while developing their self-confidence and efficacy. This growth will help them to play positive roles in their communities both now and in the future."

The students put themselves forward to take part after a visit to the turbine site. S5 pupil Cari Crosbi said the project provided a great opportunity to "engage with a range of professionals" and learn crucial skills.

Her classmate Shan Haddow said: "I wanted to get involved in a project that's going to have a significant impact on the local community. As a member of Propel, tasks including taking part in group meetings, creating applications and liaising with members of the board have helped me to grow in confidence."

The pupils on this year's committee will help to choose a second group of young people to succeed them and take the scheme forward. Organisations can now apply to the group for financial support.

Professor Russel Griggs, chair of the SMRT, said the students had shown "great dynamism and enthusiasm".

Meanwhile, Alan Hiddleston, chair of the Glenmuckloch Community Energy Park board, said he was privileged to be involved in "such an innovative project", adding: "It will also give pupils of my former school some unique learning opportunities, as there is no project like this one anywhere in the UK."

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