Comment, Education

Why it’s the perfect time for Britain’s schools to embrace low-energy lighting

Classrooms have changed a lot over the years, and lighting needs to change too

If you are over a certain age, the chances are that the design and configuration of the modern classroom is completely alien to you.

halk boards have long been superseded by interactive whiteboards, while virtual reality and augmented reality are on the rise as tools to help engage pupils with the pleasures of learning. Far from being stuck in the past, schools are embracing new technology like never before.

The latest generation of flourescent and LED lighting systems can deliver long-term cost savings that make a dramatic difference to a school’s overall energy bills”

On a more pragmatic level, the UK’s Priority School Building Programme is helping to bring real change to hundreds of schools. Devised to rebuild and refurbish those educational establishments most in need of modernisation, the programme puts the emphasis squarely on planning for the long term. Not surprisingly, then, sustainability and energy efficiency are among the priorities for schools seeking funding under the scheme.

In common with many other leading lighting suppliers, we have spent considerable amounts of time over the last few years conveying the message that lighting can play a huge role in making all schools more energy efficient. Properly specified, the latest generation of fluorescent and LED lighting systems can deliver long-term cost savings that make a dramatic difference to a school’s overall energy bills. But as we shall see, there are also other, more subtle benefits to upgrading lighting that should be factored into the discussion.

As with any such installation, it is obvious that a hastily chosen system can fail to deliver the desired results. The needs of different educational spaces can vary considerably, so ‘one size fits all’ won’t work. For instance, the lighting requirements of a small classroom will be dramatically different to those of a large sports hall.

Engaging the services of a consultant or company specialising in energy-efficient lighting and possessing a thorough knowledge of currently available solutions is a very wise initial step, then. Once onboard, they may advise against making an automatic decision in favour of LED lighting; given the specific architectural or infrastructural features of a school, it could make more sense to specify low-energy fluorescents.

Whatever the ultimate solution, it will need to boast an extended lifespan – durable products will need to be replaced less frequently, reducing labour costs for schools, and minimising downtime. Close attention should also be paid to product warranties – four or five-year terms are relatively common now, so there is no need to settle for less.

And whether or not you engage the services of a lighting consultant to help with the selection of a system, it is worth taking the time to do a little online research. Does your favoured supplier have a solid reputation for quality and reliability, and is their latest range a solid addition to their portfolio? Or does a web trawl uncover a less rosy account? Checking out comparison sites and lighting discussion pages like Lighting Talk can provide some welcome illumination.

With every penny spent in the public sector under close scrutiny, next-generation lighting can do much to help schools meet their budget targets. But those are by no means the only benefits, as successive recent educational studies have demonstrated.

The latest lighting can boost the overall quality of the educational experience through what has become known as ‘human-centric lighting’ (which you can learn more about on the Lighting for People website). In the context of a classroom, human-centric lighting might mean positive effects on concentration and oral reading fluency resulting from greater illumination levels and higher colour temperature.

Studies have also shown that better lighting can help to reduce disruptive behaviour, as well as overall physical health and wellbeing for students and pupils. Deploying more sophisticated lighting control or sensor-triggered systems also makes it possible to tweak lighting settings to match changing requirements through the course of the school day.

These factors might not be so well-known, but recognition of the ‘quality of life’ element bequeathed by the latest lighting systems is growing all the time. Couple that with the energy savings and it becomes a no-brainer.

Moreover, with the Priority School Building Programme on course to assist hundreds of school transformations all the way up to 2021, there has never been a better time to encourage educational establishments to look at the topic of illumination. Here’s a programme that will deliver benefits on a truly long-term basis – just like the energy-efficient lighting that it supports.


Colin Lawson is head of sales, marketing and product development at Tamlite Lighting