Education Minister visits Acharacle Primary School

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, visited one of the country’s most innovative and sustainable schools, Acharacle Primary in Ardnamurchan, today  Monday (August 31, 2009).

Acharacle - a pilot new sustainable school for Scotland with very low energy requirements – has its walls and roof made from ‘Brettstapel’ – a form of glue-free timber construction. This, alongside the highly airtight nature of the building, means that the heat from the children, staff and computers helps to keep the school warm.

Other key features of the school, which opened to pupils in May, include a wind turbine to provide energy for hot water for classrooms and toilets, the use of highly efficient energy appliances to reduce electricity consumption and innovative construction of the classrooms and hall ceilings to improve acoustics. The walls have also been painted in carefully selected colours to stimulate learning, social interaction and well being.

Ms Hyslop said:“I’m delighted to be able to visit such a unique and inspiring school. Acharacle has been designed to be as sustainable as possible, both in terms of the way it has been built and how it is run. 

“It is important that we have a low carbon school estate, both for the environment and also to help authorities reduce rising fuel costs. I am in no doubt that what we are seeing here at Acharacle is the future of school construction.

“I hope that this new school not only encourages pupils and staff to learn and teach in an invigorating way but that it also encourages them and school visitors to think more about how their lives impact on the local environment and wider world.

“There is no easier way for children to understand the importance of sustainability, then to see it in action in and around their school and learn at first hand about the benefits which this can bring.”

Councillor Michael Foxley, leader of the council’s administration and a local councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan, said:
“We welcome this visit from the Cabinet Secretary.  Councillors, officials and the community have worked long and hard to achieve this splendid design and to provide the community with these great facilities.  We now have a sensational new school which is both safe and non-toxic.”

Head Teacher, Mrs Lyndsay Bradley, said: The whole community is delighted with the new school. It is an amazing new building.”



1. The new Acharacle Primary School is a timber building with exceptional levels of insulation, air tightness and a minimal need for heating. The school is so well insulated and draught-proof that the heat from the children, staff and computers helps to keep it warm. All internal materials are natural, i.e. untreated timber, linoleum, clay plaster and vegetable-based paints.

2. The structure of the building - walls and roof - is made from “Brettstapel” – a form of glue-free timber construction. The use of one tonne of this material is the equivalent of taking a car off the road for nearly five months.  Brettstapel is used as the internal finish for many parts of the school and being wood, it is warm to the senses. 

3. The classroom and hall ceilings have an ‘acoustic profile’ to improve the acoustic performance of these rooms.

4. There is a wind turbine on the hill behind the school to provide hot water for classrooms and toilets.  Rainwater is being collected from the copper roofs and will be used to flush the toilets.  Electricity consumption is being significantly reduced through the use of large triple-glazed windows for daylighting and by using very energy efficient appliances.

5. The school is painted in carefully selected colours to stimulate learning, social interaction and wellbeing.

6. Additional fund raising will also provide rooms for the local Fèis nan Garbh Chrìochan; bleacher seating, lighting and sound systems for the school hall to make a superb public venue.   Fundraising has also helped provide public art.

7. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament in June, Ms Hyslop announced £800 million of Government funding for local authorities towards the construction of new primary and secondary schools from 2010.

Further information is available from:

31 Aug 2009