Inspiring the next generation ‘critical’ to Global Centre of Rail Excellence vision

GCRE publish impact report on local Primary Engineer STEM project

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) has today published the results of a year-long engineering project they have been working on with local primary schools.

Over the last twelve months GCRE has been working with the not-for-profit organisation Primary Engineer to bring engineering into the classrooms of thirteen local primary schools.

Linked to the Curriculum for Wales, the fully funded programme facilitated training to primary school teachers so that they could deliver a tailored engineering project in local schools, involving the young people making model rail vehicles.

The project was designed to encourage young people to take an interest in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and to understand more about the GCRE development happening locally.

An impact report published this week showed that 788 young people in primary schools around the site took part in the project.

It showed that 92% of teachers reported an increase in their understanding of engineering following the facilitated training, with 85% reporting a better understanding of the diversity challenges in engineering. The impact report also contains testimony from local teachers that helped deliver the project.

Primary Engineer is an educational, not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of programmes and competitions to engage children in engineering while working towards addressing the gender and diversity imbalances in the industry.

The Primary Engineer Rail Programme is now in it’s 6th year and has run in Wales, Scotland and England with over 300 schools and 14,500 pupils expected to take part in the 2023/2024 academic year alone.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a major new rail research, testing and innovation facility being developed on the former Nant Helen mining site at the head of the Dulais and Swansea Valleys.

The initiative has been funded by GCRE, which is being supported by the Department for Business and Trade in the UK Government and Welsh Government.

Simon Jones, the Chief Executive of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the tangible results of the engagement we have been doing with local schools in partnership with Primary Engineer over the last year. From the very start we have wanted the Global Centre of Rail Excellence to have a positive impact in the local community and we feel very strongly about our responsibility to give young people living near our site the opportunity to build a future at our facility.

“So it’s great to see this impact report which shows that nearly 800 young people in the area have been through the programme we have run and got a taste of engineering and the STEM skills that are needed to develop a future in rail. It’s also uplifting to see the impact the project has had on teachers through the quality training they received and the learning they got by delivering the project in local schools.

“In an area of the South Wales coalfield where deindustrialisation has hit hard and job opportunities are more difficult to find, nobody should underestimate just how important the Global Centre of Rail Excellence is to this area and a generation of young people living locally to the site.”

Dr Debra Williams, Chair of GCRE Ltd, said:

“Coming from this area myself I know just how talented and how creative the young people living in these valleys are and it’s been brilliant to see that on full display through this project with Primary Engineer.

“Through high quality engagement like this with local schools we want to help encourage and raise the aspirations of young people living locally, helping them to acquire transferable skills that business needs in the modern economy – problem solving, critical thinking, resilience and team work.

“When the young people came up against challenges or problems in their designs and their prototypes they worked through solutions in their teams in a methodical way, just as real engineers do. Helping them think and act in that way has helped us show the young people that they are the engineers, technicians and researchers of tomorrow and that they can be doing that work at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in a few years time on real trains and real infrastructure.

“GCRE offers an important regeneration opportunity for the valleys around the site and inspiring the next generation is critical to the Global Centre of Rail Excellence vision. Through these kinds of long-term partnerships with schools we can help young people see the potential of what GCRE offers to them in their lives.”

Susan Scurlock, Founder of Primary Engineer, added:

“It has been brilliant to work with the Global Centre of Rail Excellence team and to deliver this fantastic project, our first using the new Curriculum for Wales.

“This partnership with local schools has helped pupils to design and build their models, developing their problem-finding, problem-solving and team working skills in a meaningful and engaging way.

“Every young person in this area deserves the chance to try their hand at engineering and to see the rail sector and the Global Centre of Rail Excellence as an exciting future career opportunity. Our project has begun some of that work and provides a great platform for further engagement in the future.”

As part of the Primary Engineer Rail Programme pupils built working models in class which were then put to the test at a Celebration Event in Neath held in March – a large gathering of all schools, hosted by Primary Engineer and GCRE, that champions pupils’ engineering skills, creativity, and achievements.

The impact report can be downloaded here:

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