Policy and Legislation
Public buildings can make a significant contribution to sustainability demonstrating good and best practice to private markets and the public as a whole. There is a real opportunity for local economies and job markets to be sustained through the choice of local materials and suppliers. This option also reduces the need to transport goods and people and also enables future maintenance to be undertaken effectively.
Although school buildings account for a relatively small part of the public sector, their influence cannot be underestimated as schools can establish the core values of sustainability into minds of future generations.
Since devolution, systems of governance and regulation have become increasingly differentiated across the four home countries. In terms of education, ‘England has pursued reforms based on diversity of school types and parental choice; Wales and Scotland remain more committed to the concept of the community-based comprehensive school’.
Policy in Wales
Devolution occurred in Wales in 1998. In 2001, WAG released ‘The Learning Country’ ‘a Comprehensive and Lifelong Learning Programme to 2010 in Wales’. This was the National Assembly’s first major legislation and included decisions that were directly related to what is done in schools and for learners post-16. Jane Davidson, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning at the time stated ‘We shall take our own policy direction where necessary, to get the best for Wales’. This document was socially orientated, focussing on improving the National Curriculum and skills and opportunities for learners. The built environment and sustainability had very little mention.
In 2006 ‘The Learning Country, Vision into Action’ was released which included a greater emphasis on the built environment and sustainability. This document stated that:
- all school buildings will be made fit for purpose;
- sustainability and security should be promoted in the design of new schools and significant refurbishments should have regard for BREEAM standards;
- effective procurement and project management should take place through the provision of school buildings through collaborative action;
- authorities should be consulted on the need for investment and set targets to reach the fitness target;
- schools should be promoted as a focus for the local community, providing opportunities for out of school activities.
In February 2008 WAG launched the ‘School Effectiveness Framework (SEF)’ which set out a vision for improving outcomes in learning and wellbeing for the children and young people of Wales. This policy is socially orientated with emphasis on learning and collaboration and information sharing.
Detailed Sustainable policy and legislation for schools
Policies within the education sector are becoming more specific with regards to how schools can become more sustainable and contribute towards national and international targets whilst being conscious to the barriers to implementation including funding. There is a need to learn and take forward policies quickly in order to achieve the necessary targets to reduce emissions.
In the ‘National Framework for Sustainable Schools’ launched by the UK Government in 2006, the Government committed to transform every school into a sustainable school by 2020. The ‘Eight doorways’ were introduced to provide clear information about sustainable school activities.
In June 2007, the Sustainable Development Commission published ‘Every Child’s Future Matters’’ which combined research with the experience of nine local authorities to demonstrate how attention to the environment provides a powerful way of meeting ECM’s aims. This was followed in December 2007, by ‘The Children’s Plan-Building brighter futures’ which set out an ‘ambition for all new school buildings to be zero carbon by 2016’ and ‘a taskforce to advise on how to achieve zero carbon schools, whether the timescale is realistic and how to reduce carbon emissions in the intervening period’ .
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) quantified for the first time the contribution of schools to greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, and offered scenarios for how these may change to 2050. In August 2009 the SDC identified the policy framework and delivery options that will deliver significant greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 towards 80% reductions by 2050.
Confirmation that schools can be a driving force towards sustainability and should play a special role that goes beyond their contribution to national emissions was demonstrated by DCSF in 2009. This provided guidance on ‘details of how sustainable schools can contribute to local targets and be supported through existing service delivery across all departments within local authorities’.
In 2010 The Zero Carbon Task Force report ‘seeks to provide a roadmap by which those working and studying within the school sector can begin to radically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases…’ and ‘…sets out proposals for what local authorities, schools and others can do to reduce emissions’ .
Awareness of policies in other areas is essential as they can have a significant impact on the education sector. These can include sustainable development, planning, energy, climate change, waste, water, food, landscape character, biodiversity and transport. These impacts can be positive, providing further support for sustainable policy within schools but can also cause conflict between policy.
Conflicts can arise as a result of practical design problems such as difficulties in obtaining planning permission for ambitious renewable energy systems. Also common ‘sustainable design strategies’ used in other building types such as providing flexible thermal comfort bands, natural ventilation and special envelope design are prevented from being used in schools because they conflict with current school design legislation as specified in the Building Bulletins. This is also true of guidance such as ‘Secured by Design’ a UK Police driven initiative with the principals to design out crime. Standards are provided under the 'Police Preferred Specification' scheme relating to doors, windows and general security and includes methods for reducing bullying in schools.