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Winds of change at greenest school

A Shetland primary will see most of its electricity produced by wind and solar power after winning an environmental care contest. Mark Latham reports

A Shetland school is set to become the greenest school in Scotland after receiving funding to install a wind generator. This, together with solar panels, should provide the school with 90 per cent of its electricity needs.

Lunnasting Primary has been named as the Scottish winner of the WWF Our World schools challenge, which grants four schools in the UK pound;15,000 each of government money for environmental improvements.

At Lunnasting Primary, most of the money will be spent installing a six kilowatt wind generator. Heating at the school is oil-fired, but the school still spends over pound;2,000 a year on electricity for lighting and computers. The wind turbine and solar panels will be connected to the local grid which means that outside school hours, the school will be able to sell electricity to the generating company.

Headteacher Norma Smith said she was delighted to hear that her school had won the award. "I was very excited and phoned up everyone I knew to tell them the news.

"The school has won a number of environmental awards in the past few years and this really is the icing on the cake.

"Wind is a free resource in Shetland, not to mention the whole of Scotland. We hope this project will show just how keen young people are to make a difference for the environment, starting with their own school.

"I think it is important for children to be aware of and to take care of the environment. This kind of project gives us the opportunity to include environmental themes in the teaching of subjects such as science, maths, geography and history."

Mrs Smith hopes the wind generator and solar panels will be installed by the end of the year. She also hopes the council will allow the school to keep the money saved on electricity bills.

At an awards ceremony held at the school last week, it was announced that a Lunnasting Primary 7 pupil, Stephanie Wiseman, aged 11, is to attend the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg in September. Stephanie is one of four WWF Earth champions, one from each of the winning schools, who will be reporting on the summit for the BBC Newsround television programme.

"I am really excited to be going to the conference and meeting some of the politicians," she said.

As well as interviewing ministers for Newsround, Stephanie will report on the results of the summit via WWF's education website and take part in Internet debates.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who handed the winning plaque over to the school, said: "The achievements of these young Shetlanders show that future generations are leading the way to a cleaner, greener Scotland.

"The voices of the future should be heard by the decision-makers of today. I wish them well.

"I hope the Our World project will provoke a wider debate in our schools about people and the environment running up to the Johannesburg summit.

"Lunnasting sets a national example of how to link environmental sustainability with community involvement. To do that and to win a national award and to send a young person to Johannesburg is a tremendous achievement for any small community.

"Lunnasting is an example to schools in Shetland and Scotland of what can be achieved."

The awards ceremony was also attended by WWF education officer Linda Cracknell, who was on the judging panel of the Our World schools challenge. Mrs Cracknell said she had been impressed by Lunnasting Primary's bid because of the educational opportunities it would provide for pupils.

"Winning ideas like the wind generator at Lunnasting Primary show us how schools can play an essential part in shaping a better world through a fresh approach to education," she said.

"By making decisions on energy consumption in their schools, pupils at Lunnasting are learning about their roles as citizens."

"The WWF Earth champions will play an active role at the summit and in the preparations leading up to it. They will be expected to speak out for young people back home, report back to the youth of the UK direct from the summit and interview ministers and other delegates."

Lunnasting Primary has been at the forefront of environmental education since 1995 when it was designated the first Eco-school in Scotland, as part of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. The award was made in recognition of the school's efforts to minimise and recycle litter and waste.

Since then the school has won the prestigious award a further three times, for work on the school grounds, a project on energy and maintenance of the grounds.

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