back to article Headmaster freezes schoolkids for Gaia

Pagan gods traditionally required human sacrifices – preferably of children – and a West Country academy school appears to be leading the way. To give pupils a lesson in "sustainability" they'll never forget, headmaster Rob Benzie of Ansford Academy in Castle Cary, Somerset, ordered a "No Power Day ... as an experiment to see if …


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  1. Chris Miller

    This is your future

    Get used to it (unless we start building some new nuclear plant PDQ).

  2. rurwin

    Charcoal is carbon neutral. While trees are growing they take carbon out of the atmosphere. When the charcoal is burned the carbon is returned to the atmosphere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      By that argument, Coal is also carbon neutral

      When the trees it's made of were growing they took carbon out of the atmosphere.

      When the coal is burned the carbon is returned to the atmosphere.

      1. Tom 13

        Only the tree-huggers

        claim it isn't. Same thing goes for oil.

    2. A.A.Hamilton

      Can I 'Fail' your 'Fail'?

      Shirley it depends on what you decide the boundary conditions are: if you start with the CO2 that was absorbed by the growing tree then you are already in a CO2 deficit situation (something put it there to start with - perhaps on early geek burning his pre-cambrian copy of El Reg). The subsequent 'grow/burn' cycle still leaves you with a deficit balance, doesn't it?

      By extension to the limits of boredom, we have to blame it all on the Big Bang.

      1. pepper

        carbon cycle

        Its called the carbon cycle, its released and repackaged all the time. Kinda funny how this whole 'renewable' thing is silly. Most energy sources are renewable over time, what they really are looking for is how clean and abundant a resource is and what the environmental impact is.

        Then again, sitting one day in the cold wont hurt these kids and show them that nothing is granted.

    3. John I'm only dancing

      Epic fail

      How can charcoal be carbon neutral when it is created using a fuel that puts various carbon compounds and gases back into the atmosphere?

      1. Shakje

        @John I'm only dancing

        What if the fuel that's used to create it is also charcoal? Recursion fixes anything.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Epic fail

        I'm not saying that charcoal is 100% carbon neutral, but where do you think wood gets it's carbon from?

        I'll give you a clue - it's not the seed, the ground, or the water.

  3. John Ruddy
    Thumb Up

    Surely this could be replicated across the school estate and will save a lot of money?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "What's puzzling is why,[...] barmy dogma"

    I think you're struggling a bit with your spin here.

    You might well call it "barmy dogma" if they'd kept the heating off for a month, but a day makes the point about taking energy for granted quite well. And at least the students might learn to take energy security seriously, even if there is no particular reason for a lack of heating to turn one green.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Energy security? BRING IT ON!

      If you want to teach kids about energy security, take them to a windfarm during a typical UK cold snap caused by a high pressure system. We have several each year. Show them how much energy is being generated. For a month last year, it was almost zero.

      Then show them a shale gas installation. Make sure they see both a) the capital costs and b) the operational costs.

      Schoolchildren need to learn as much about the Greens as they can. I agree.

  5. Steve the Cynic


    Use of charcoal is more-or-less carbon-neutral, because as any reasonably well-educated person knows, charcoal is, in essence, heat-treated wood. You build a big pile of logs, branches, and twigs, cover it mostly in earth, and then burn it in not enough air. This drives off the water and other contaminants, leaving behind what is essentially pure carbon. But this carbon, when burned, goes back into the atmosphere, where the tree got it from in the first place.

    I don't generally have a lot of time for environmental activists and their activities, but they should not be criticised for this particular thing, as it isn't inconsistent with the general theme. We could argue about whether it would be better to use the wood directly rather than via charcoal, but it's worth noting that wood isn't all that great a fuel - it's better than the dung used in large portions of the Third World, but significantly worse than coal, oil, or even charcoal - because it contains way too much water (simultaneously non-combustible and energy-absorbing).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's why..

      you condition the wood over 6-12 months. You keep in a nice dry log shed and a few days / weeks before before it's needed, bring it in, ideally sticking ti next to your wood burner.

      You'd be amazed how much heat a modern burner can kick out, far more than a gas fire or radiator. Ahhh how I miss mine (no where to put it in current house)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Better still:

          You get dinosaurs to eat the vegetation and then, when they die, condition *them* over a few hundred million years..........and turn on the Central Heating before popping out to the shops in your car........

      2. Armando 123

        Three cheers for wood stoves

        We have one and burn only 'scrap' wood - fallen limbs, dead trees - and that one that we had someone cut down because it was leaning WAY too far towards the house. It's a nice, dry heat and the furnace doesn't kick on. If it does, it pulls in the heat through a cold-air return and pumps it all through the house. Give me a roaring fire, an unending glass of Guinness, and a day of NFL football, and I am one happy ape.

  6. pip25


    Few people can deal more damage to the idea of eco-friendliness than those who take the idea to the extreme.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why December...

    Seeing as you have a picture of Moloch there...Moloch's power is stronger in December.

    Everyone knows that!

  8. Anonymous Coward 101

    This just sounds like a 24 hour fast some kids did when I was at school so that they could think about the poor starving Ethiopians.

    The Ethiopians still starved.

  9. Arnold Lieberman

    At least the kids didn't have to sit through another interminable ICT lesson

    The one with the winter lining, obviously.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fossil fuel = good

    If just one child grows up a fan of fossil fuels and opposes pointless renewables like wind and solar PV then the whole exercise will have been worthwhile.

    Then we have to educate the politicians to avoid us disappearing into the renewables abyss.

    1. Andrew Moore

      no chance- there's taxes to be levied and kickbacks to be had from those renewables.

    2. No, I will not fix your computer

      Fossil fuel != good

      Renewable energy such as wind and solar barely break even and cause other problems (such as toxic production waste in the case of solar), we'll end up with shortages of other elements such as helium (cold storage) and lithium (batteries) ......

      But some energy harvests (such as water heating in countries with good full sun), work (and have worked well for decades).

      Hydro generators on islands with a reservoir (where desalinated water is used as an energy store for wind turbines) can be the difference between a society surviving or not, for them fuel costs are elevated because of their location.

      As fossil fuel runs out, and it doesn't matter if that's 10, 100 or even 1000 years from now we must have an alternative, and an efficient one, easy to build, maintain and cost effective, the way that we get there is by trying to get there, this means that our "infancy of knowledge" has to be got through, yes renewables isn't delivering (at the moment), but it will, and it HAS to, we're standing in the street and a steamroller is driving at us, we probably have plenty of time to get out of the way, perhaps we have better things to do at the moment, but at some point we're going to have to address this issue, but perhaps we should at least plan how to get off the street.

  11. crowley

    Lesser of two evils?

    "We also learn that food and water were heated over high-CO2 emission charcoal – regrettably, not a very climate-friendly choice."

    Surely using a product made from a tree that may well have sucked all it's carbon from the atmosphere when a tree in the recent past and probably replaced with new saplings already to recover that carbon, is better than using energy derived from 400 million year old buried trees that'll never be replaced unless we geo-engineer some new rainforest?

    Though, presumably the latter option will become more feasible if we DO release all that wasted carbon stuck in the ground...

  12. Ian Johnston Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Charcoal is carbon neutral

    You know how it's made, don't you?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Northern Fop

    1 Degree Celsius?

    Luxury! When I were a lad we had.....oh I can't be bothered. Post xmas do malaise and all that. Pffff.

    Plus charcoal, wood, neutral etc. Someone else can explain.

    Urrrhhhhhhhhh, my head.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The dogma seems pretty balanced on either side to me.

    It won't do kids any harm at all to spend a day without heating. In fact it may help them. Many people in this country are facing fuel poverty, old people are particularly vulnerable. For people in less prosperous countries it's a fact of life.

    Where is the harm in getting kids to understand this ?

    Of course, because It's being done under the banner of environmentalism. Therefore we get a Daily Mail/Guardian type horror story (choose your own hysteria peddler). I somehow expect more of the register.

  15. Alfie

    Small point - charcoal is produced from trees which capture the CO2 while growing, so the CO2 produced by burning the charcoal is effectively 'carbon neutral'.

    Apart from that, the guy is obviously bonkers! An ideal role model for teaching the yoof of today. It never did us any harm being taught by nutters!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      'Small point - charcoal is produced from trees which capture the CO2 while growing, so the CO2 produced by burning the charcoal is effectively 'carbon neutral'.'

      You're confusing the argument by using 'science'.

    2. The First Dave

      Small point - lots more energy is used to convert the wood into charcoal, making it much less efficient overall - better for something like this to burn the wood in its natural state, (after a little gentle air-drying)

      Besides, the wood would be a much better carbon sink if not burned at all...

      1. JulianB

        Another small point

        "lots more energy is used to convert the wood into charcoal,"

        No, the wood itself is partially burned, using that energy to turn it into charcoal. Admittedly a match or other source of flame is used to light it in the first place, but that's not "lots" more energy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @The first dave

        The energy comes pretty much exclusively from the wood that's being turned into charcoal, but charcoal burns hotter and cleaner than wood, hence why it's used. Wood does make a much better carbon sink if just left alone, but you have to make sure that it doesn't rot in any way because if it rots it produces methane, which you really don't want.

        1. Tom 13

          First Dave is probably a 'Merkin like me

          and thinks of charcoal as that stuff which comes from the Kingston company and is made as much from coal as wood. Not sure how carbon neutral that stuff is, but then not being a tree-worshipper myself, I don't care.

      3. Kubla Cant

        IANACB (I am not a charcoal-burner), so my knowledge of charcoal-burning is largely third-hand, but...

        I think the energy used to convert the wood into charcoal actually comes from the wood itself - there's no external input. And I believe the process involves very slow combustion to drive off volatile components of the wood while retaining as much of its carbon as possible.

        On the other hand, it could be that industrial charcoal-burning is done in huge gas-fired furnaces. I have to admit my information comes from Swallows and Amazons, c1955.

    3. Sean Baggaley 1

      "Small point - "

      ... last time I checked, coal and oil also started out as natural, living entities too. So how is burning them any less "carbon neutral"?

      Sure, the cycle is a few million years longer, but geologically speaking, it's still the merest blink of an eye!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    I always thought virgins in scampy bimbo outfits were considered a preferable sacrifice.

    1. Mme.Mynkoff

      No, it's babies and children

      Virgins in skimpy (or scampy - down boy) bimbo outfits just look better in films.

      Which is where you get your history from.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Well, you know what they say: "pictures or it didn't happen", so there must be some truth in it ;-)

        1. Oninoshiko

          You must be new

          It's playmobile here!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Bob Grahame

    At my school in the 60s, freezing classrooms were common

    The heating was ancient and ineffective, the windows were huge, single glazed sash and not even slightly airtight, and the ceilings were amazingly high. So at desk level, it was usually freezing. Jar of water left on windowsill would freeze and break overnight. No econutterdom to blame back then, or even lack of money (a very well off fee-paying public school), just "the way things were". Yoof of today, never had it so lucky! ;-)

    1. Kool-Aid drinker
      Thumb Up

      @At my school in the 60s...

      Yup. Did you get frozen school milk too? Those were the days; these youngsters haven't lived.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Frozen in winter

        ..and cheese in summertime. Maggie robbed a generation the pleasures of free school milk!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      It was acceptable in the 80s

      Sounds like my primary school in the 80s. Admittedly I think it was a 60s 'new build', with the single pane draughty windows and ridiculously tall rooms. Strangely, the doors were made of metal for some reason.

      The buses too and from school were also freezing, 60s leftover Bedfords and Leyland Leopards with rain streaming down the inside of the windows and cold hard plastic seats.

      And another strange thing, while the rooms were freezing, the breaktime 1/4 bottle of milk was always lukewarm.

      PE was an excuse to get a bit of warmth, which in primary school was mostly jumping about, unlike the high school sadistic teamsports/cross country in freezing temperatures.

      Of course nowadays everything is double glazed and insulated and they just use their Macbook pros on their lap and fire up a full screen flash video, and instant heat!

      Nuke icon, as it looked warm.

      1. ThomH

        @Sir Wiggum

        Same experience here, albeit just nudging into the 90s. Our culprit was a 'temporary' and mostly wooden prefab that the school had acquired secondhand and which decided to use as a permanent classroom. Memorable aspects, other than the cold, included an exploding lightbulb and someone falling through the floor, presumably both related to the damp.

        They had a proper classroom built somewhere in the mid-90s, I think.

    3. John I'm only dancing
      Thumb Up

      Cross dressing

      I remember sitting my mock O' levels in 1975 in a bloody freezing cold school hall....It was so bad, the girls were allowed to wear trousers, so a few 'enterprising' lads borrowed skirts to wear instead

    4. Wade Burchette

      Too hot is just as bad

      Here in the States, specifically in North Carolina where I live, our school always had heat. But we didn't always have air conditioning. It matters here because highs in 90's and 100's (Fahrenheit of course) are common. The cold and the heat each bring their own problems. Our schools weren't designed to let the heat out either. You try listening to the teacher when you are covered in sweat. And then knowing you have to put up with that heat the next day. Given a choice between the two, I rather put up with near freezing temps than being too hot.

      And then, the year I graduated, our school was installing air conditioning.

    5. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Uncle Albert!

      "It was so cold one day that the flame on my lighter froze!"

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, you went to King Williams as well?

    7. Mediocrates

      Back in my day fire had not yet been invented

      Freezing was the least of our worries in school, though. We were eaten by dinosaurs. Every last one of us. No survivors.

    8. Luther Blissett

      That's nothing

      I have memories of playtime behind the bikesheds comprising several lads huddling around a lit cigarette for warmth. (It wasn't a special either).

    9. Intractable Potsherd

      Our school (early 70s) ...

      ... managed to combine the overall near-freezing room temperature/icy milk with heating pipes that were hot enough to melt Bic biros and plastic rulers (most of the rooms smelled constantly of hot plastic and boiling ink* from October to March). It was possible (if in a seat next to a pipe) to have superficial burns to the lower leg whilst trying to hold a pen with blue fingers.

      Ah, happy days ...!

      *Because if it could be done, it should be done!

  18. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Has this guy ever *met* any kids?

    "Perhaps it's a subtle recruitment campaign for the fossil fuel industries."

    Not *that* subtle, though. Knowing kids as I do (and as this prick of a headmaster clearly doesn't) I'd wager that most of them are now fully in favour of global warming, anthropogenic or otherwise.

    Of course, once every school is an Academy and freed from the suffocating restrictions of the LEA oversight, this sort of thing won't be news anymore.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      hmmm Academy now there a good idea NOT

      maybe all these kids could go the BNFL school or maybe the tax pay funded ETON Academy.

      Raising kids awareness of their environment can only be a good thing and your attempt to besmirch this attempt is poor

      maybe we should all go to schools sponsored by BNFL where the kids will be force fed that nuclear is good and everything else is bad. Or maybe a Religious Academy where you can teach kids that the great sky fairy will come and save us when the gas and petro chemical finally runs out.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        I think you may have missed the point.

        "Raising kids awareness of their environment can only be a good thing and your attempt to besmirch this attempt is poor"

        All this has done is teach kids that environmentalists are freaking nutters. The kids weren't asked whether they wanted to participate in this experiment. It was just some random "grown-up" in a position of authority deciding that it would be fun. My memory is that this sort of abuse does not go unnoticed by intelligent teenagers. By the time they reach an age of legal independence, they are *convinced* that the entire adult population are morons who should be ignored at every opportunity, except perhaps to do the complete opposite of what they say.

        Great! Way to go, teach!

        As for academies, what I meant was that once freed from the strictures of an LEA, an academy will be free to indulge in as much similar silliness as the headteacher wants, so stories like this will be so common that they won't be newsworthy anymore.

        Note to self: expect the country to get worse before it gets better.

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: hmmm Academy now there a good idea NOT

        So only Fairies can synthesize hydrocarbons economically?

        Well, sir - it looks like you're going to get a nasty surprise. Or a nice surprise. Depending on what your agenda is. I suspect you're not going to like it.

        1. Luther Blissett

          Actually, yes

          How else do you suppose the abiotic origin of petroleum can be explained? Sure, take some limestone, some water, cook strong, cook deep. But, to make it all come together, there has to be a special cook to breathe life into the idea, to make it real. The spark of Creation:

          No physical animals were ever harmed in the creation of hydrocarbons/oil. Plenty will be harmed by the withdrawal of plant food, aka CO2.

  19. GrumpyJoe

    Put it down as 'atonement for your sins'

    and it could be a catholic ceremony.

    1. despicable me

      Well I'll be buggered if I'm going there then.

      No wait I'll rephrase that...

      1. Armando 123

        @despicable me


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gaia again?

    In the last couple of weeks it seems like every article about climate has had a dig at gaia as a suggestion that climate science is religion. It happened after one of the proponents of gaia theory died, I haven't heard it before. Odd that gaia theory isn't really anything to do with climate.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Climate science itself may not be a religion, but it's being used as one

      Climate science is in its infancy - we don't have models that predict, we don't really understand the variables and we don't even know what the variables actually are.

      This is all perfectly understandable as it's a rather big system with lots of inputs and truly chaotic.

      Unfortunately certain groups have grabbed it and shaken it to bits, forcing indefensible results. In some cases they're even jumping to the completely indefensible conclusion that human action is not just a notable input, but the primary driving force!

      - One could accept that human action is a notable input, however as we don't have any reliable models one cannot progress from that statement to a defensible conclusion.

      It's an assumption either way, nothing more - thus the positions along the lines of "human CO2 emissions are warming the planet" is a religion.

      Aside from that, even those groups that have come to the conclusion that human CO2 emissions are significantly warming the planet are pushing many 'solutions' that would clearly make things worse or have known dangerous effects. (Eg higher % of wind > more standby gas plants > more gas burned > more CO2 from building and burning)

      Seriously, if you genuinely believe that human action is damaging the planet then clearly the most efficacious change would be for couples to have fewer babies. In general that appears to involve educating and empowering women.

      One less child has a bigger effect than any other single behavioural change.

      I've not heard of any Green group helping with that.

      1. No, I will not fix your computer

        @Richard 12

        It's irrelevant if humans can affect the climate.

        We need to be careful with our (finite) resources;

        Fossil fuels are being consumed - therefore they will run out in 10,100 or 1000 years... whenever, again the time is irrelevant.

        Nitrogen (for fertiliser) is not going back to the cycle, it also is being consumed, countries like the USA imports huge quantities, this is being mined, again it will run out if not recycled.

        Lithium (for batteries) is being used faster than can be supplied.

        So this is what we need to focus on, production of CO2 and possible adverse impact is a potential problem that we could solve without trying to, just by being more rational.

        But on a second, and more important poit, when you said "Seriously, if you genuinely believe that human action is damaging the planet" have you forgotten about CFC's?

        We found a serious issue with ozone depletion back in the 70's, the "hole" that was recognised back in the mid 80's, I won't bore you with the history, but after much back and forth, evidence and rebuttal, we now produce and release far less CFC, but the damage has been done and it probably won't be for another 60 years until things are back to "normal", human action damaged the planet (absolute fact) and (some of us) learned a lesson.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        One less child has a bigger effect than any other single behavioural change?

        Really? one less child in the world would have a bigger effect than (say) moving to smokeless fuel as they did back in the 1960s - perhaps you're right, they could have solved the UK smog problem by just offing a couple of babies.

        Numpty - oh, and just in case you meant "one less child per couple", the worst per capita polluters aren't the countries that are having lots of kids (the US is the worst per-capita CO2 polluter, but only produces 2.01 children per woman).

        What possible harm can there be from consuming less fossil fuel?

  21. Wiztwas

    Fantastic... and biased

    I think this is a fantastic thing to do every school should do at least a no heating day.

    We all forget how energy dependant we are, and we also forget how good things like warm clothes are at reducing our energy needs.

    As for the pagan dogma, that seems to be journalistic hype.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Village idiot alert

      In Pagan dogma the Earth gives and takes away. The elements are the ultimate moral arbiter of our behviour. We're rewarded and punished accordingly.

      Journalistic hype? Not really. If you took the trouble to educate yourself, you will find this is the same basis on which modern environmentalism is founded. This mixes Rousseau with modern middle-class Guardian readers guilt about prosperity and inequality, stopping off at the New Age supermarket for a bit of jargon on the way.

      The solution to "our energy needs" is cheap energy - so fewer humans die or suffer.

  22. Sapient Fridge

    Charcoal only returns recently captured CO2

    You are correct that charcoal has high CO2 emissions, but since that carbon was recently captured from the atmosphere in the first place it makes no long term difference.

    Burning fossil fuel adds CO2 which was removed from the atmosphere millions of years ago. It's a completely different scenario.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely this is well as daft.

    Are not employees entitled to a minimum temperature in the workplace? Or I believe they can go home. I think it's in an Employment Act. Though perhaps schools might be exempt...but they shouldn't be.

    Since the staff didn't riot one can but assume they were also all keen eco mentalists. Easy to see where this sort of idiocy is being foisted onto impressionable kiddly winkies isn't it.

    My top tip? Start a few fires in the classroom kiddies. One way or another you'll end up in a much warmer place.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: illegal

      Looks like the classrooms should be no lower than 18 Celsius. However, IANAL and it does look like the head-teacher has the final word on closure. It seems very unlikely that the law gives *pupils* the right to decide anything by themselves. If they chose to walk out, or not turn up, it would probably count as truancy.

      I wonder if this school is due for an Ofsted inspection anytime soon?

    2. Teiwaz

      Summer is a Coming

      Good idea, there's all those nice wooden desks just sitting there...

      All the schools I was at in the 70's-80's had at least a couple of old storerooms with old desks in them.

      At the very least they could have built a Wicker man and burnt their principal in it in the hopes that the God of central heating would forgive them them their transgressions and return his blessing.

      'Summer is a-coming in - sing Cuckoo'

      I can still remember those horrible prefab classrooms where you spent the lesson sitting on your hands to keep them warm, and everybody fought over the radiators in the halls during break...

  24. TrishaD

    You know....

    I could have sworn I'd opened up El Reg rather than the Daily Mail online ......

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You crossed out pupils and replaced with students

    Why? It's early in the day and I haven't had my tea yet so apologies if I'm just being thick but as it's a school and those being educated are under direct supervision the correct term is pupil.

  26. Blofeld's Cat

    Seymour Utterthwaite rides again...

    This sounds like the school formerly run by Seymour Utterthwaite.

    "... with magnificent views over the moors, but by God it was cold. Little fingers blue with cold, but it didn't stop the boys writing whinging little notes back to their parents. Oh no. And the fuss when one of them fell off the roof..."

  27. TeeCee Gold badge

    "....after shivering in 1°C cold for a day...."

    Could have been worse, there could have been liver on the lunch menu.

    Anyone know where school caterers get that green, rubbery stuff they describe as liver?

  28. ContentsMayVary

    Charcoal isn't climate-friendly?

    "We also learn that food and water were heated over high-CO2 emission charcoal – regrettably, not a very climate-friendly choice."

    Er, what? Burning charcoal is carbon-neutral if it was made from wood from a sustainable plantation (which I fully expect it was).

    Typical journo science fail...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might also be teaching them

    How to save money rather than paying shedloads to our rip off utility companies.

    I agree though, 'tis a tad extreme.

  30. Real Ale is Best


    Charcoal is completely climate friendly, because it is completely renewable. It's made out of wood that's been harvested, see? You plant more to recapture the CO2 released!

  31. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    What about the laws regarding minimum temperatures in the workplace, don't they apply to schools?

  32. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It misses another point:You to have spend to accumulate.

    Carbon emitted during education can be offset (in theory at least) against the benefits of having a well educated workforce in the future.

  33. Chicken Marengo


    >>We also learn that food and water were heated over high-CO2 emission charcoal – regrettably, not a very climate-friendly choice.

    Actually, UK sourced charcoal is an extremely environmentally friendly choice that was the main source of energy for intensive uses such as glass making for hundreds of years before the industrial revolution and its' displacement by coke and coal . The CO2 emitted is from a renewable source and will be balanced by the new growth wood. Additionally charcoal production is usually from coppiced woodland. Coppicing is a highly sustainable woodland management practice that produces significant other environmental benefits.

    Unfortunately, imported charcoal is often made from mangrove or clear cutting of rainforest, which is not a sustainable practice. However, without knowing the source of the charcoal how can you comment on whether or not it's use was climate-friendly?

  34. sandman

    End of civilisation

    They have heated classrooms these days? How delightfully decadent!

  35. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "without consuming any energy from non-renewable sources"

    I wonder how much additional energy they consumed the next day to get the school back to its target heating level.

    If I'm not mistaken, one day without heating is going to increase the inertia the heater is programmed to overcome. That additional inertia is going to make the heater work more.

    I wonder if they thought of that.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      The idea that having your heating on less often will increas your fuel bills has been comprehensively debunked. It seems however that stupid ideas have momentum.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As it's been comprehensively debunked, you have links to sources, yes?

        Or is this just an opinion with no direct basis in relevant research, and thus can be taken with the same degree of salt as the poster it replies to?

        Now, I haven't done the research into heating in particular, however I have done the research into industrial compressed air systems.

        With those, I found that shutting them down over the weekend (when no use was being made of the air) saved nothing, as the system would have completely emptied by Saturday afternoon, and the cost of pumping the system back up from empty on the Monday was roughly equal to the savings made by not running Fri evening thru Monday morning.

        Until I'd done the investigation, everyone had thought it would save a lot of money by shutting down over the weekend. Turns out that it wasn't true.

        However, if it was shut down for four or more days it was a worthwhile saving, and there was no notable length of shutdown when it would cost more than leaving it going.

        This was because air consumption in the plant was very high - with plant going, the system emptied in minutes. That's not the case with heating systems - the ongoing running only deals with leakage.

        Someone else did a similar investigation into heating the water column for the can steriliser. They found that shutting it down over the weekend actually cost quite a lot more than leaving it going at a 'tickover' level.

        Now this specific case isn't directly comparable - a canning steriliser operates at a much higher temperature than the average home, and if the steriliser isn't hot enough you have to throw the cans away - so the warmup period had to start a long time before starting work on Monday morning or risk massive wastage.

        'Twas only dog food, but apparently you're not supposed to poison them either...

  36. Andrew Moore

    Ah nostalgia...

    I remember back in the day, when I was a poor 3rd level student, I spent a whole freezing winter without heating. It didn't kill me and since then I had a much greater tolerance for cold temperatures; I can still wear t-shirts and be quite comfortable when others are breaking out the sweaters.

    1. Alfie

      You're not from Newcastle by any chance?

  37. Peter 53

    Very, very, very dissapointed

    I'm getting used to a complete disregard/ignorance of science in the media generally, but didn't expect to see it on here.

  38. TheOtherHobbbes

    Ah well

    If only the teacher had wheeled in a nice and toasty classroom-friendly portable nuke, the kids' faces would surely have been glowing with warmth and happiness.

    Actually considering the way the nuke and fossil lobby (sic) has been inflating prices of non-renewables, the school was likely just trying to save itself a bit of cash.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carbon neutral, my arse

    I suppose the trees magically cut themselves down, processed themselves then transported themselves to the school?

  40. KnucklesTheDog


    Yeah, how dare they teach kids about energy production and conservation in a fairly light hearted and mildly interesting way for them.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Outraged

      Light-hearted = freezing to death all day?

      You must be a riot at parties.

      1. KnucklesTheDog

        > Light-hearted = freezing to death all day?

        "We monitored the temperature and it didn’t fall below 18 degrees"


        But you deliberately seem to have left that out in favour of mentioning the rather irrelevant outside temperature repeatedly, how strange. It wouldn't have had much impact if they'd have done in it in the summer when the heating is turned off anyway would it?

        > You must be a riot at parties

        Yeah, I'm famous for my non sequitur theme parties, sounds like you might like to come.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed opportunity

    "And children, this is what happens if you keep telling the government that nuclear stations are big and scary, and full of wizard-dust"

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Missed opportunity

      { titters }

  42. dogged


    While I agree the whole thing is pretty mad, at least the charcoal is carbon-neutral. It came from a tree.

  43. Uncle Slacky Silver badge


    It's carbon-neutral - at least, it's not accumulating atmospheric carbon over millions of years and then releasing it within a couple of hundred...

  44. Filippo Silver badge


    Just build the goddamn nuke plants already, or give up on reducing CO2 emissions. There's no alternative. Having kids stay in school at 1° C is not an alternative. Seriously, this sounds like a very effective campaign *against* the "reduce your footprint" concept.

  45. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Not sure about barbaric

    but it would serve him right if they all turned in sick notes for the following week...

  46. This post has been deleted by its author

  47. Rampant Spaniel

    So theres two questions here

    1- will it do them any harm? I doubt it. I remember playing rugby in a foot of snow for several months of the year growing up in North Yorkshire (we loved it btw huge amounts of fun). I worked on a farm on weekends and dove for lobsters in the north sea, both of which are fairly cold during winter. A reasonable level of cold won't hurt healthy people. Very few kids of my school year (I'm 30) had asthma or allergies, however my younger brothers year was full of xbox kids allergic to everything who died instantly when exposed to temperatures under 20C. Some experts believe there is a link between warmer homes and asthma and allergies.

    2- Will they learn anything from it? I am lucky enough to live in Hawai'i these days which is contentiously part of the USA, a first world country. Our island gets its power from burning oil, poor people and golfers. Being an island power goes out fairly often. We do without, this is life! About once a year Chile or Japan sends us a 20ft high wave and we have to live in our car up a volcano for 12 hours. We get on with it. Kids need to experience a little hardship to understand what they have and to stop them taking things for granted. It will also give them the confidence to take things in their stride when things do go wrong, which they always will at some point.

    I got a puncture on the way to a meeting for work, my coworker started to call the AA, he had no idea how easy it was to change a tyre. We should give these kids a chance to be challenged otherwise they won't be able to cope when life throws something at them! The school should be applauded for their actions.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      For the benefit of our Hawai'ian readers

      Here in the UK, the weather and the infrastructure are crap enough that we get real-world hardship every winter anyway. The kids already know about being cold, so no life lesson was needed.

      What was new in this experiment was the realisation that the adults in whose care they found themselves were a bunch of irresponsible idiots. (Perhaps that's a necessary life lesson, too, but it shouldn't be.)

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Having spent the first 20 odd years of my life in North Yorkshire I am aware of that. I'm also aware plenty of these kids go from a centrally heated home in a warm car to a heated school.

        Real world hardship? I doubt it :-) Minor inconvieniences perhaps. Seriously, what harm became them?

        I don't think so much that the cold alone would teach them anything, although the ones glued to their games consoles may learn a little, but the wider implications of no power hopefully would have helped them realise how many luxuries they take for granted. Growing up in an isolated valley meant powercuts, sometimes for extended periods. Forget broadband, we could lose power and phone and roads, loosing luxuries, even for a short time helps teach people to think, to be creative in finding solutions. We didn't exactly have to chip the ice off the cows each morning but you had to bodge some interesting solutions for feeding yourself and animals and getting around was fun.

        It's a challenge and kids need challenges (mine do or they get bored and things go bad fast) to help them practice skills and build confidence. I don't advocate sending them down the pits or putting them in harms way, but a single day without power is hardly likely to harm them is it?

        People over protect kids, they're resiliant little buggers who thrive on challenges, coddling them and shielding them from challenging situations breeds mediocrity and a lack of ambition. Great if you want a generation of fryers for the golden arches, not so great if you want to be a country of 'sunrise industries' (I think that's the current phrase).

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Breaking the law

    The LAW requires that standing up workplaces are kept to 13C minimum, offices are much warmer something like 16 or 18C, schools are at least that. If this breach is allowed to slide, soon employers up and down the country will switch the heat off under the mantra of "zero carbon year/decade" and yet more rights flow rapidly down the drain.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      13/16 is correct but in this instance it is unlikely to be illegal. When the temperature falls below the thermal comfort level (which varies significantly) AND an employee complains or becomes ill the employer is required to review the situation and potentially take steps to redress, however those steps can be to increase clothing. One day, with notice and warning to wear appropriate PPE wouldn't constitute breaking the law.

      The mechanics of actually sorting it out generally take months if not seasons. Just getting an employer to agree on how to measure the temperature and assess thermal comfort levels is a minefield. Many jobs require working in sub 13 deg c temperatures, they wear a coat. The kids are unlikely to die and will probably feel fine with some extra clothes.

  49. Rampant Spaniel

    re minimum temperature

    I believe there is a minimum (infact one for manual labour 13deg c and one for desk cuddling jobs 16deg c) but below this you are not entitled to go home, just to complain and be told to dress more sensibly. I don't believe there is a maximum temp which can be crap in summer when some granny in the office turns the heaters on when its 35 outside already but they are supposed to try and keep it sensible. Exceptions are made for jobs like bakeries and cold rooms where extremes are part of the job.

    Given it was one day and that they were warned to dress warmly I doubt there's a H&S issue. Given the last two H&S blokes I met were sat smoking on top of a propane tank at Low wray campsite I'm inclined to ignore it anyway :-)

  50. Atonnis


    I could point out the obvious. Under UK law there are set minimum and maximum temperatures that the school is supposed to provide - otherwise the students (and teachers) are entitled to go home.

    We used to love abusing that law on Wednesday afternoons during summer when we'd close all of the windows in the IT room and steadily watch the thermometer go up. 30C - BAM! HOME TIME!

  51. Spoonsinger

    Winter of '81, Sucky Yorkshire boarding school with broken central heating...

    Portakabin with a small paraffin heater. Latin and Classics test. Now that was chilly and not fun. Kid's today don't know their alive.

  52. DV Henkel-Wallace


    I'm all for reminding people that Australia exists, but I'm not sure what a game in Australia has to do with all this.

    And what's wrong with "pupil"?

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Energy balance points to man-made climate change"

    Phew. Narrow escape there. If things had been only a little different, someone might have had to report on another story entirely!

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: "Energy balance points to man-made climate change"

      Clutch that straw, there aren't many left now.

      1. Tim Parker


        "Clutch that straw, there aren't many left now."

        You really should try science one day - you may find it informative. It's the stuff hiding behind the agenda being waved around by politicians, lobbyists and others who seem to prefer listening to their own voices rather than reason.

        1. Sean Baggaley 1

          @Tim Parker:

          Sorry, which lobbyists, politicians and "others" with this mythical, extremely well hidden, less hysterical and more moderate approach to national power infrastructure agendas are you gibbering on about, because I sure as f*ck haven't heard or seen one in the media. They're *all* banging on about CO2 this, Climate Change® that, ad nauseam.

          Anyone who disagrees with these irresponsible natters is instantly branded a "Climate Change Denier"—despite none of us on this side of the fence having *ever* denied the fact that the Earth's climate *does* change. (Ask any geologist or palaeontologist: the Earth's climate has never *stopped* changing, and it went through some pretty wild periods long before us humans came along and started sending Earth our Cease and Desist letters.)

          Wait... by Jove, we must all collectively be imagining all those pointless, yet *subsidised*, wind farms, solar PV installations and their ilk; most of them constructed at *massive* expense—and no small amount of climate-changing emissions and pollution! (Or do you think concrete is nice and easy on the environment? I've *seen* the massive kilns Blue Circle used to make their concrete for the Channel Tunnel! They'd have needed solar PV panels the size of an entire *county* to power that little lot.)

          And I guess it's also NOT the case that nuclear power has been repeatedly subject to incessant FUD from the ignorant too! I mean, look at all those exploding French nuclear power stations! Not a day goes by that one doesn't simply explode from the sheer joy of spreading radiation! The UK clearly has *dozens* of brand new nuke power stations currently going through planning processes or already under construction!

          I mean... It's either a mass hallucination that only seems to affect those who happen to disagree with all this climate change hyperbole, or you're flat-out wrong.

          I know what I'd bet my money on.

  54. ChaosFreak

    Charcoal is Renewable...apparently

    If I were one of the students I'd see this as a cautionary tale on what life would be like without abundant energy supply.

    By way of correction, you poo-pooed their choce of charcoal to heat meals but according to greenies charcoal is considered "carbon neutral" since the carbon in charcoal is 'recently captured' as opposed to the millions of years old dinosaur soup used in fossil fuels. The logic is that the carbon you emit by burning charcoal will be re-captured by trees that can again be made into charcoal in an endless "circle of life" where the same carbon is simply cycled.

    Of course, I'd hate to see what the atmosphere would look like if we replaced fossil fuels with charcoal...

  55. Chimp

    May I be the first to say...

    Charcoal is apparently carbon neural. For an explanation, read most of the previous comments.

    Yes, the experiment was a bit mental. No controls, no real point. Still, it won't hurt the little blighters. Toughen them up, make men of them. Well, apart from the girls, of course. The Empire was founded on buggery and freezing child schools.

  56. Spud2go

    Suffer the little children...

    ...usually at the hands of a misdirected idealogue such as this headmaster. I don't see this guys action as educational or responsible in the least, unless his intention was to make most every child think privately to themselves "It's freezing, & you turned the heaters off on purpose - you twat!!"

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