Hurworth School breaks the mould

Hurworth School

Tuesday, 1st November 2016

Hurworth School breaks the mould

SCHOOL leads the way in meeting the engineering challenge

The North-East is suffering from a shortage of home-grown engineers – but one school in the region is leading the way in meeting the challenge 

AS someone with a wealth of experience in industry, Jamie Smith knows what it takes to be successful in the traditionally male-dominated profession of enineering.

And Jamie is now a man on a mission after swapping industry for the classroom nine years ago.

He moved to Hurworth School, near Darlington, four years ago and since then he has been at the forefront of a transformation in the way the school teaches engineering.

His infectious passion as Head of Design and Technology has seen the numbers of pupils wanting to study engineering rocket ­- and, crucially, girls account for more than a quarter of the pupils in his class.

“Teaching engineering is no longer about having a lot of naughty boys hammering away at bits of metal,” says Jamie. “There are fantastic opportunities for women in engineering now because companies are so keen to demonstrate their diversity. What we’re trying to do at Hurworth is change the perceptions about engineering and make it a subject for everyone.”

Hurworth is the only school in the Darlington area to offer a double-award GCSE in engineering, and the first pupils to take the course will complete their qualifications next September.

Jamie served his apprenticeship at Darchem, at Stillington, and went on to work for a number of other engineering companies.

“I enjoyed my time in industry but the idea of teaching the next generation of engineers just appealed,” says Jamie. “It’s hugely satisfying to see the progress we’ve made.”

He is now using his connections in industry to develop healthy links between the school and employers, with local companies such as Darchem, Cummins, Cleveland Bridge, Mech-Tool (MTE), Fab-Tech (UK) and Star Projects Ltd all playing an active part in supporting Hurworth School’s engineering courses.

For example, the Year 10s spend parts of their course, learning skills such as robotics automation, at the Cummins site, which manufactures engines for the international market.

“It’s really important for the pupils to get an insight into the workplace and see world-class engineering companies in action,” says Jamie.
Two trips a year are made to Darchem to cover core elements of the course and the company gives the school its sheet metal off-cuts to use on projects. There are plenty of other examples of where links between the school and engineering companies are proving hugely beneficial.

Cleveland Bridge is this year’s sponsor of Hurworth School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Day, which will be staged with a bridge design theme on November 11.

Parts of the course are also delivered at Darlington College and visits are also made to Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College so pupils can see there is a traditional A-level route into engineering.

Jamie has the support of an experienced team, with teacher Darren Thompson having a background in product design, Helen Lovick in charge of food technology, and technician Gemma Pearce reinforcing the message that women can have careers in engineering.

And he acknowledges the backing he has received from head teacher Dean Judson in creating extra space and investing in industry-standard equipment, such as a 3D printer, laser-cutter, and computer suite with a 3D software package. A recent bid to the Wolfsen Foundation led to a £45,000 grant to buy more leading edge machinery.

It all adds up to an impressive Design and Technology Suite, which was opened by Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson.

“The aim is to identify the best of the best pupils and develop them so that they’re ready to make a career out of engineering, using equipment that they’re familiar with,” says Jamie.

Darlington has a rich heritage in engineering, as well as a present-day need to develop young engineers, and the school is bucking the national trend by making the subject a priority.”

Fifteen-year-old twins Niamh and Annabel Peckitt have engineering in their blood because their dad Darren is an engineer at Cummins, and they are now among the ten girls out of 36 on the double-award GCSE course.

“There are more opportunities for women in engineering now than ever before and I love the way the course combines theory with hands-on experience,” says Niamh.

“Even if you don’t end up in engineering as a job, the experience is a great thing to talk about in interviews,” adds Annabel.

Other girls in the class include Katie Cooper and Milicent Whitehead, who are quick to underline the importance of Jamie’s passion for the subject: “He’s just so encouraging and the fact that we get to visit engineering companies makes it so much more real,” says Katie.

“He’s been an engineer so he knows what it’s like and he’s always there when we need help,” adds Milicent.

It’s a testament to the school’s increased emphasis on engineering that two pupils, Rose Addison and Ewan Brown, have been awarded the Arkwright Scholarship – the most prestigious scholarship of its type in the UK - in the past two years.

Darlington does indeed have a proud history in engineering. Local companies have built some of history’s most famous bridges, and made engines that power the world.

Now, Hurworth School is creating an environment in which both boys and girls can make their mark as the future generation of engineers.