Engineering the future

An independent school in NE England hopes to help address key skills shortages with its new technology centre

Dame’s Allan’s Schools in Newcastle upon Tyne have opened the doors of a half-a-million-pound technology centre which will benefit both students and the local community. The Dr Alan Reece Technology Centre was officially opened by Anne Reece, daughter of the renowned NE engineer, at an event which saw leaders in businesses and education come together to celebrate the new facility.

Dame Allan’s Schools were able to embark on the project thanks to a £250,000 donation by the Reece Foundation, which promotes the improvement of education in engineering, technology and related subjects. The foundation was set up by the late Dr Alan Reece in 2007 and its work is continued today by his family.

“I am thrilled to see the centre up and running,” said Anne Reece. “Children using this facility will have the chance to see modern technology and engineering which will inspire them to consider engineering as a career. I loved seeing some of the younger children working with a hacksaw and then looking around at the equipment they will progress on to. They really will learn from the basics to the top.”

Local link primary schools will be able to make use of the advanced facilities, building on the schools’ existing masterclass programme, which aims to introduce children to different subjects and technologies that they may not have at primary school. The new centre is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, lathes and sophisticated software, and maintains the schools’ reputation for innovation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. Dame Allan’s had one of the first physics laboratories in Newcastle.

The new centre brings with it new jobs. Scott Sweeney joins the schools as head of design technology and Adrian Park as a new IT and design teacher.

Children using this facility will have the chance to see modern technology and engineering which will inspire them to consider engineering as a career – Anne Reece

Dame Allan’s anticipates that this investment in STEM subjects will enable the schools to help plug the skills gap in the sector. The Royal Academy of Engineering has estimated that around 820,000 science, engineering and technology professionals will be required by 2020 – with 80 percent of these required in engineering. Engineering UK forecasts that, based on the needs of current technologies, the number of people leaving education with STEM qualifications must be doubled to meet this target.

The girls’ school at Dame Allan’s is also keen to redress the gender imbalance and hopes to build on the foundation of alumnae in high-ranking STEM careers.  One such Allanian is Professor Ruth Gregory, lecturer at Durham University and a governor at the schools. Professor Gregory specialises in physics and maths and was the first woman to be awarded the Maxwell Medal by the Institute of Physics for her work on understanding the structure of the universe.

Dr Hind, principal at Dame Allan’s Schools, said: “We are thrilled that the new centre is now officially open. It will allow Dame Allan’s to build a curriculum that provides the technology, training and experience to excite and inspire the next generation of students in STEM subjects. This will enhance the already varied curriculum at the schools, through which our students achieved outstanding GCSE and A-level results this summer.”

Also in attendance at the opening event was the pro vice-chancellor of Northumbria University and high sheriff of Tyne and Wear, Lucy Winskell. Lucy attended in her capacity as high sheriff, having chosen to focus on education and the way it can transform lives during her year in office.

Dame Allan’s Schools W: www.dameallans.co.uk

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