'CO2 benefit' to fewer printers in Highland schools

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

Image caption,
Thousands of printers are to be taken out of schools across the Highlands

The benefit to the environment of a controversial IT modernisation programme should be widely publicised, a council group has said.

Parents and teaching union, the EIS, have raised concerns about the removal of 2,000 printers from schools in the Highlands as part of the project.

IT contractor Fujitsu has said the wider programme would cut Highland Council's total energy use by 22%.

Replacing old computers and having fewer printers would save £900,000.

The financial saving could potentially be made every year, Fujitsu has told Highland Council's climate change working group.

The IT company also said new, faster computers should see the running costs of individual machines drop from £60 to £15 a year.

A minute from the meeting records that councillors said they had faced a "strongly negative response" from parents to the introduction of new equipment in some schools.

Council officers said it was important that the benefits - such as cutting harmful carbon emissions and saving money - should be made "widely known".

They also warned of a risk linked to a school being recognised as an Eco-School, an internationally recognised award for environmental-friendly practices.

The minute said: "There was a danger that once a school had obtained Eco-School status, pupils and staff felt they had 'done their bit'.

"There was an ongoing need to change behaviour and attitudes."

Unwanted equipment

The working group agreed that a flyer should be produced for schools highlighting differences in running costs of old and new equipment.

Councillors also noted that community groups could be given the unwanted equipment, but they should be warned of their poor energy efficiency rating.

Reducing the number of printers and upgrading computers form part of Fujitsu's £70m contract with Highland Council.

Earlier this month, the EIS criticised the contract. It warned that computers as well as printers would be removed from schools.

Highland's EIS secretary Andrew Stewart told BBC Scotland at the time: "It is a corporate deal that the council have done.

"Maybe financially it is a good deal, it may well be adequate for offices, but in schools, education is bound to suffer."

Teachers have raised concerns with the EIS that losing classroom printers would mean time away from pupils to collect printouts from other parts of their schools.

Invergordon parent Cath Crawford said she and others were prepared to take extreme measures to protect the local academy's equipment.

She said: "We will even go to chaining ourselves to computers and printers to stop them going out of Invergordon Academy."

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