AS winter fuel bills rise, many schools across the North West are now facing tough budget challenges to keep their pupils warm.

This is partly due to the outdated, oil-based boilers, which many schools use, that are also harmful to the environment.

Deeside Company and Niche Renewables want to change this and make energy bills a thing of the past, whilst reducing the carbon footprint of schools in the area.

As the government seeks to reduce emissions from public sector buildings, including schools, by 75 per cent by 2037, Niche has just completed its first project at St Laurence Church of England school in Chorley.

It’s the first of its kind in the UK and was paid for entirely by the government. This means that the school saves £10,000 a year on heating and hot water.

Niche has achieved this by using a state-of-the-art ground source heat pump – which takes energy from schools’ playing fields and turns it into hot water and heating for the staff and children.

St Laurence’s head teacher, Emma Marquis, says: "The Diocese was looking for funding from the Government and looking at energy certificates and ours was quite ‘red’.

"Certain parts of the building were very cold, and we were using oil heating. So, we are now thrilled that we have a warm school, we are doing are part for the environment and have become greener – which was our number one priority".

Andy Owen, Niche Renewables owner, adds: "We have now helped produce a school which is self-sustaining. It’s not asking the environment for anything. It’s just asking the playing field to produce all the energy for heating and lighting."

Ms Marquis added: "There are many things that the children and governors, parents, and staff have been able to learn moving forwards, so it’s made a huge difference and the school is now very warm."

The most recent application window for the government's scheme, which paid for Niche’s work at St Laurence School, closed earlier this month.

However, further windows will open in due course, allowing access to nearly one and a half billion pounds, committed until 2025, which the government has earmarked to reduce emissions from public sector buildings, including schools, by 75 percent, by 2037.