23 Aug 2023

Wool carpet in classrooms campaign gets carpet maker Bremworth's support

5:58 pm on 23 August 2023
An empty primary school classroom.

The Ministry of Education has announced plans to refit almost 800 rural schools with synthetic flooring tiles, but some schools believe wool should be used instead. Photo: 123rf

Some rural schools are turning to community fundraising so they can put wool carpet in their classrooms - spurning the government's offer of synthetic flooring tiles.

And carpet manufacturer Bremworth has come on board with a Wool in Education Initiative.

In July, the Ministry of Education announced plans to outfit almost 800 rural schools with $8 million worth of synthetic tiles. It was part of a renovation programme for schools.

But North Canterbury Rotherham School principal Cheryl Barbara said using synthetic carpet was "inconsistent" with a sustainability doctrine and was "insulting" to the rural sector.

She said hopes to be able to swap out the synthetic product for a woollen one, with the school paying the difference, had been a "no-go".

"We are one of 10 pilot schools that were to be fast-tracked through the new renovation programme, which also includes lighting and acoustic upgrade, however, the ministry has told other rural principals if they refuse the synthetic tiles they cannot access this proportion of the funding to use for wool carpet.

"Rural schools are about supporting their local community. I don't think there would be any rural school in New Zealand that would want to be using plastic carpet, to be honest," she said.

Wool carpet was biodegradable and more comfortable to sit on than synthetic carpet, she said.

"In a classroom environment where all the children are sitting on carpet for most of the day, you want it to be comfortable as well."

As a result, she contacted carpet maker Bremworth, which was happy to help, and she said more schools would follow suit.

"I belong to a rural principals' group with members right across New Zealand and they put out a survey and 80 percent of the people have said they would rather go with wool carpet, rather than the synthetic tiles.

"We have a corn selling fundraiser, we've been involved with the North Canterbury Hunting Competition, and the Amuri Rogaine so we'll be using funds from them to pay for it," she said.

Carpet manufacturer Bremworth has launched a Bremworth Wool in Education Initiative to help cover some of the additional cost the schools would now have.

Chief executive Greg Smith said schools due to replace their existing flooring would get a subsidy equivalent to at least 30 percent of the cost.

"We're prepared to be quite flexible because we've had different schools approach us with different needs and so some of those schools we've been able to, because of the size, give them something more significant than that. We'll be flexible as applications come in," he said.

Smith denied wool carpets could not compete with synthetics, saying decisions were not just about price.

"We don't want to compete with synthetic tiles, wool's a better fibre for our children to be sitting on."

Smith said he did not understand the Ministry of Education's decision when the government had a strong sustainability goal.

"It flies in the face of the government's commitment to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.

"What is needed now is for the ministry to amend their current offer to allow schools to take the cash equivalent of the plastic tiles, which they can then put towards wool carpet."

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