THE UK’s first academy dedicated to engineering has welcomed its first 120 pupils.
The Year 10 students arrived for lessons at the new £22 million JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire yesterday where they will study a curriculum focussed on acquiring engineering and business skills alongside GCSEs in Maths, English, Science and German.
JCB’s chairman, Sir Anthony Bamford, said : “I am passionate about engineering and committed to British manufacturing but we need the right calibre of young people to ensure that we continue to be a nation that makes things in an innovative way.
“The JCB Academy is one small step to helping achieve that aim. The facilities here are second-to-none and offer the students the opportunity to learn about manufacturing and engineering in a way that is exciting and practical and aligned to the needs of employers when they qualify in a few years time.”
A total of 120 pupils from Staffordshire and Derbyshire arrived for lessons in the Grade II listed Tutbury Mill, close to JCB’s global headquarters in Rocester.
The school has been equipped with over £1m-worth of modern engineering equipment which the school says will help pupils turn their design ideas into reality. The equipment includes the only plasma cutter – a machine tool commonly used in industry – to be based in a UK school.
The engineering tasks completed by pupils have been set by the JCB Academy’s partners who include JCB, Rolls Royce, Toyota, Network Rail, Bentley, Bombardier, Rexroth Bosch Group, National Grid, Zytek Automotive, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, IET, Harper Adams University College, The Royal Academy of Engineering and Parker Vansco.
The JCB Academy been fully subscribed for a number of months. In addition to the Year 10 pupils, 50 sixth formers will start their studies there on September 13. Half will study towards Advanced Engineering diplomas, and the other half towards Advanced Business diplomas.
The JCB Academy is the first school of its kind in the UK for the education of 14 to 19-year-olds with a core focus on engineering. Like other state schools, the JCB Academy is funded by the Department for Education. As main sponsor JCB contributed 10% of the capital and donated the mill in which it is based.
The JCB Academy is designed to be highly energy efficient and it has installed an Archimedes Screw which will generate around 80% of the power for the site. Rainwater is also harvested for recycling.
The academy will deploy finger recognition technology using biometric information, enabling pupils to register their daily attendance, pay for their lunch and sign on to their laptops with the swipe of a finger. The JCB Academy also has a 3D room where pupils can don glasses and see 3D colour animations of the projects they are designing. Every pupil will receive a laptop, which they will be able to keep once they leave the academy.
The academy’s principal, Jim Wade said: “Today has been long awaited and it’s very exciting to welcome pupils here after all the years and months of preparation. We have the very best of facilities here geared to educating our young people to a level that gives them the employability skills they – and British manufacturing – need when they leave.
“Today is only the start of the journey and already we are making plans to recruit the next intake of students and with demand so high for places we urge those wishing to apply to come to one of three special open evenings at The Academy on either 5th, 7th or 13th October.”
Julie Pegg’s 14-year-old daughter Amy started at the JCB Academy yesterday. Mrs Pegg, from Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, said: “We attended an open evening earlier in the year and from that moment on we saw this as an excellent opportunity. With JCB and other major companies like Rolls Royce on board there seems to be more chance for Amy to succeed here than there is at a mainstream school.
“The curriculum is imaginative, the location and the building are fantastic and it gives the students the chance to be really hands-on and practical in lessons and stretch their imagination.”
Mrs Pegg, who works at JCB Service, added: “Amy is both excited and nervous but I know she will be fine – she has already made friends with other students who are starting today via email and Facebook, so she isn’t going in there cold. She knows this is a fantastic chance and is really looking forward to it.”