21st Century Schools Programme
The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), in collaboration with Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), launched the 21st Century Schools Programme in March 2010. The Programme plans to create a generation of 21st Century Schools that:

  • support the policy of 'One Wales (WAG, 2009)';
  • drives improvements in educational standards through investment in schools;
  • aligns post 16 year old transformation with wider public investment;
  • plans to create world-class environments.

This Programme presents new opportunities to embed sustainability into every aspect of school life in Wales whilst ensuring that there is cross sector interaction between different work streams.
At the launch of the 21st Century Schools event in March 2010, Leighton Andrews, Minister for Children, Education & Lifelong Learning said: 'The current school estate needs to become more sustainable; both environmentally and financially. We need to make best use of our limited resources. Deliver more for less....the programme will build on upon success and accomplishments to date. But we recognise there is still a lot to do'.

Leighton Andrews in a school

What does the guide include?
The guide considers:

  • new build and refurbishment of existing schools,
  • nursery, primary and secondary schools,
  • buildings, equipment and grounds and built environments of all ages.

Sustainable design is not isolated to a building and the built environment and wider issues must be considered thoroughly to formulate a holistic and feasible approach for sustainability to be delivered. These issues include teaching methods, general policy/legislation and targets of public buildings sector, infrastructure and mechanisms for delivering sustainable projects, tools for sustainability assessment, stakeholder involvement methods and affordability.

The social benefits of delivering a zero carbon school includes:

  • providing opportunities for teaching and learning about sustainability and climate change,
  • contributing towards meeting UK targets for greenhouse gas emissions,
  • raising awareness of climate change amongst local communities and
  • supporting the development of new low carbon technologies and techniques.

Broader aspects of sustainability are not covered in any depth in this Guide as there are other workstreams within the 21st Century Schools Programme that cover these, for example, the impact of spaces on behaviour, space standards, learning outside the classroom and ICT.

Leighton Andrews stated at the launch of the 21st Century Schools Programme that 'Investment will be made on the basis of local plans for local needs' and this Guide follows this principle in that sustainable schools should be designed for the situation in which they are located. Many sustainable features function most efficiently when they utilise what is available within their surroundings, including the supply of local materials or skills, availability of renewable energy and the local community surrounding them.

This Guide has been developed to create awareness and provide guidance of sustainable design rather than tell you ‘exactly what to do’ due to so many different situations in schools and locations across Wales. It should be used as a guide to consider appropriate options rather than provide direct answers and to assist the decision making process to create the most sustainable school possible.

WLGA - CLILC Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru / Welsh Assembly Government