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How is history taught at British Private Schools?

By Bryan McElearney

Editor’s Note: CCETv must be non-political to respect our commercial operation and having concerned Founding Sponsors. Yet we have purpose: to increase our audience’s comfort, energy saving and therefore the planet. In the following article we draw parallels, not to score points but for the greater good. The parallels between Parliamentarians and their actions are to help a climate crisis that affects us all especially our children for generations. We apologise if we ruffle feathers, but this is to illustrate problems and suggest their needed solutions, which can be enacted quickly and painlessly for us all to enjoy a better life.


Eton College – the Prime Minister’s school – ©Eton College


Regarding sustainability and the UK position, it could be asked, how is history taught at private schools? These schools - where many pupils are boarders - are the seats of learning of 65% of the present UK Cabinet, according to the Sutton Trust. The question is directed at the history of eighty years ago, in particular about the beginning of the Second World War, known as the “Phoney War”, because outside some notable exceptions there seems to be a Cabinet joint attitude that Climate Change will not affect us YET! Although knowing it is here and serious there are obvious solutions that are not being enacted to solve the problem. This could possibly be because at the end of the Phoney War entered one of the present Prime Minister’s heroes - Winston Churchill - to save the situation.


© IWM (O 344) Allied troops during the Phoney War


The lack of action to seriously address Climate Change can be seen in the despair of the government’s advisory Climate Change Committee who published a report on 16 June from their Adaptation Committee showing that virtually nothing had been done since their last report five years ago, another report a week later from their principal committee said the same thing. Amongst their reforms were those concerning Building Regulations, the CCC are showing that present buildings - even new - do not address the problems of heat which in 2018 cost over 2,500 lives.


The Chief Executive of the Committee - Chris Stark - points out during an interesting presentation that the report has involved over 450 people, 130 organisations and more than 1,500 pages of evidence and analysis. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/independent-assessment-of-uk-climate-risk/ So there is no lack of ammunition in this battle.


During the report’s Introduction Mark Carney ex-Governor of the Bank of England who is the Prime Minister’s Climate Finance Advisor for COP26 points out that “…climate risks will affect every sector of our economy, we can’t diversify out of them, they are unlike any others because we won’t have a financial system if we don’t have a planet… we can’t wait for the next CCC report to act…”


Baroness Julia Brown - Chair of the Adaptation Committee - said both on the BBC Today programme and in the CCC video that she “despaired of the lack of action”. At CCETv we recognise that Building Regulations because of “vested interests” will take an age to fix, but what is their progress, the situation is urgent and needed now? Baroness Brown points out “…in these last 5 years over half a million homes have been built that “lock in” the problems of heat and ventilation…”


When asked about the report Dr Emily Shuckburgh of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Chair of Cambridge Zero said “…it makes good economic sense to be resilient now so that it won’t cost more in the future … we should be protecting our investments.”


Can CCETv suggest some quick interim fixes before the problems becomes even worst, we are a commercial operation, yet we will campaign for a better world and believe some solutions can happen quickly as our Head of Design - Marie Leggo - proved with her and three colleague’s campaign “Boris What About Weddings” that in four days opened up the wedding market after a 15 month close down.


Image Credit Verity Westcott Photography


Our simple quick solutions are as follows, which could be enacted very quickly – the situation needs action – as before Norway in 1940:

  • Remove the VAT on home energy saving refurbishments in line with new builds.

  • Remove the VAT on double and triple glazing on refurbishments the same as new builds.

  • Stop the loss of grants when underfloor heating can also be used to cool.

  • Insist that district heating and COOLING is used in apartment construction and refurbishments.

The last point may need some explanation to people who have never left the UK but those who have been to Finland and Sweden will know its wide use to save energy, even Paris where Engie use the Seine to cool homes and businesses.


© Engie


It is well known that politicians love donning high vis jackets and hard hats for photo opportunities and much of the progress by the UK in sustainability has had massive grand schemes that allows for this “fun” but let us have more visibility when the owners of 126 Acacia Avenue re-fit their homes to remove the horrendous waste of energy the UK housing stock inflicts on the climate. It should be remembered these re-fitters are also voters who have teeth as shown in the recent by-election in Chesham and Amersham. They have ignited the re-examination of the proposed planning changes, one of the last of Dominic Cummings measures, who boasted he was going to destroy the planning procedure after his troubles of converting a shed into a home without approval on his father’s land in County Durham.


The Climate Innovation Forum 30 June – July 2 perfectly Chaired by the incisive Nik Gowing to its reported 10,000 viewers from around the world, had one important last contributor who was John Kerry - United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate – his purposeful and dramatic contribution pleaded for action and urgency in every area to protect our planet “…advertisers show the benefits, get through to the people the fundamentals, show scale…” He referred to a previous world crisis “…in World War II the Ford Motor Company produced an aeroplane for the war effort at the rate of one an hour…” An amazing effort yet put in parallel to the war against climate change, just to address the UK energy leaking housing stock of 23 million houses at one an hour it would take over 2,600 years to solve the problem, fortunately the cost of a warplane compared to the cost of making a home energy efficient is less than a thousandth. The phoney war must end now with action, as John Kelly said it is urgent; at CCETv we also know refitting leaking homes creates green-collar jobs across the country.


To satisfy both our readers and my editor of the reason of the headline of this article and its parallels, it is quite simple:

  • History because of the urgency.

  • Private schools, because ex-pupils tell of the lack of comfort to “toughen you up” – so suffer the cold and heat- don’t be comfortable or you will be a like as mollycoddled home boy.

  • Private school fees do not have VAT - so our environment should be the same.

  • Private schools are treated as a charity – so should be our planet, we need it.

Yet when all things are considered the present Government ministers are possibly too old to have been taught about the Phoney War but their children and grandchildren are being schooled about it, they will see how our climate crisis has been treated in the same fashion, which will feature in all future history books worldwide.


It should be noted that in April 2022 the RHI - Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, which helps with grants to encourage efficient green heating is proposed to disappear, to possibly be replaced by a £4,000 grant – a reduction of nearly 90% - which will be half of a grant for an electric taxi.

Many thanks to David Billingsley, Sales Director, Kenso Group – the market leader in ground source heat pumps – for actual information in the real world of sustainability.

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