Pioneering project by BCA and United Utilities scoops STEM award

A pioneering partnership to make Warrington a hotbed for new engineering talent has picked up a top regional education award.

Beamont Collegiate Academy’s 16-week link-up with United Utilities gave 64 young teens a yearning for learning and earned a prestigious Educate Award in a ceremony at Liverpool Cathedral on 16 November 2018.

The Orford secondary school’s Masterclass initiative was named as the top school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) project after interest in engineering among participants soared.

The project – which pitted teams against each other to solve a real-life engineering conundrum – is now being repeated with an emphasis on attracting girls into science. Around two thirds of the youngsters recruited for this year’s masterclass are female.

United Utilities’ social impact manager, Lynn Johnson, said eight teams of Year 9 and 10 pupils from Beamont, Bridgewater, Sir Thomas Boteler and Penketh high schools worked weekly with the company’s graduate engineers.

Their challenge was to devise a scheme to find and pipe water from the Cumbrian fells to a fictitious new community centre in Coniston.

Lynn Johnson commented: “It was a great project for us as well as the students.The two winning teams spent a day with us at our sewage works in Davyhulme, Manchester, which is home to some of our most advanced engineering.

“When the project finished nearly two thirds of the participants said they had much more interest in pursuing engineering as a career and it helped some of our engineering graduates in their professional development as well.”

Masterclass was the brainchild of TCAT Leaders Keiron Powell and Chris Hillidge, who approached United Utilities, and Engineering lead, Jimmy Ingman, who was invited to spend a week at the company’s HQ at Lingley Mere touring engineering disciplines and talking to experts.

It was put together on behalf of The Challenge Academy Trust (TCAT) which incorporates the four participating schools and Beamont Collegiate Academy - the UK’s only STEM Assured Status high school.

Principal of BCA, Mr Andrew Moorcroft, said: “Working with a leading water supplier like United Utilities was a huge bonus.

“The project we generated is the first of its kind from within any multi academy trust nationwide, that set out to develop industry-led, education-inspired project-learning from across the various STEM disciplines.

“The award is the icing on the cake,” he added.

United Utilities’ Engineering Delivery Director, Richard Ratcliff, said: “It’s vital to stay connected with young people, keeping them informed about the range of science and engineering opportunities available to them.

“More than 45 per cent of students said they were more interested in a STEM related career as a result of being involved. That,for me, is a real result.”

The Educate Awards are now in their seventh year and are the largest education awards in the North West.