Schools told to cut their energy bills

The UK schools secretary has told schools to cut their energy bills and share resources in order to save tens of millions of pounds of public money.

The UK schools secretary has told schools to cut their energy bills and share resources in order to save tens of millions of pounds of public money.

Ed Balls has said headteachers need to start planning to make savings now in order to protect teaching jobs and frontline services in the future amid growing pressures on the public purse.

He announced proposals for a £12 million initiative to give schools hi-tech "smart meters" to cut their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint.

The Government believes the meters and other energy efficiencies could save primary schools up to £700 a year each and secondaries up to £3,000 a year each on fuel bills alone.

Schools should also be negotiating better deals on computers, cleaning and catering contracts and other services, Balls told the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) annual conference in Birmingham.

Headteachers should compare their expenditure with that of other schools and examine their staffing plans to see if changes can be made to ensure staff are used effectively.

Balls also urged schools to consider partnering with other schools to share services. He told the conference it was time for schools to have an "honest debate" about making the best use of resources.

Balls said: "Together we have opened up opportunities for thousands more children and young people. I am committed to ensuring that this progress continues and that despite tougher times vital frontline services are maintained.

"Now more than ever we need to ensure we are getting real value for money from our investment. We will only achieve efficiency savings while at the same time continuing to improve school standards and raising levels of achievement by working together."

The smart meter scheme will be part of a major campaign launched early next year to reduce demand for energy and change teachers and pupils' behaviour using electricity in every school in England.

According to Balls, the campaign will help reach a long-term ambition for all new school buildings to produce no carbon emissions from their day-to-day use. the meters give "real-time" digital read-outs on how much electricity a building is using second by second.

It will mean that heads, teachers and support staff can see the immediate impact of high-energy use and take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and bills.

The move comes ahead of the Zero Carbon Taskforce final report, Copenhagen Climate Change Summit and a new drive in schools on how best to invest public money. All schools will be able to apply for the scheme - and ministers will consider extending it if it proves successful.

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