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Rolls-Royce and Sunderland school engineer new skills for primary pupils

UK Discs links up with school to inspire next generation of engineers

Primary school children in Sunderland are being inspired to consider a career in engineering through a unique link-up with Rolls-Royce employees at the £100 million state-of-the-art aerospace disc manufacturing facility next door to the school.

Rolls-Royce UK Discs produces critical rotating parts for use in aeroplane engines. These discs are in a wide range of Trent aero engines including the world's most efficient aero engine the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB. UK Discs has been working with children at Rickleton Primary School in Washington since the new facility started production in 2013.

The initiative has helped introduce children to STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, provided a first-hand look at engineering and inspired youngsters about future careers in the manufacturing sector.

Pupils and engineers from the school and facility have worked together on a range of activities, from tours of the facility's shop floor, to UK Discs employees speaking at school assemblies. As a result, the children took part in an engineering week, an engineering awareness scheme, learnt to build model engines and created a piece of 3D art for UK Discs' foyer in partnership with visual artist Zoe Allen.

Sunderland City Council deputy leader, Cllr Harry Trueman, said: "As manufacturers across the UK in all sectors struggle with skills shortages, this is a brilliant example of how partnerships between industry and education can work for the benefit of both.

"We applaud the approach taken by Rolls-Royce UK Discs and Rickleton Primary School. They have discovered a great way to introduce young people to engineering and STEM subjects at a young age, which will open pupils' eyes to some of the excellent engineering careers available in Sunderland. Those could be with Rolls-Royce or in one of the many manufacturing companies across the city."

Rolls-Royce UK Discs HR manager, Jo Flint, said: "When UK Discs began production in Washington in 2013, we were keen to work with the local community. After meeting with Rickleton School we formed a partnership and worked together to get the next generation interested in engineering, particularly targeting younger children. We had some ideas and the school was also very keen to build engineering and what Rolls-Royce does into the curriculum.

"This is just the start of our partnership. The whole experience has been absolutely fantastic and we've learned a lot from working with the school and the young students."

The work with UK Discs has had a major effect on pupils and the way they view STEM subjects. Rickleton Primary School headteacher, Colin Lofthouse, is now aiming to use the relationship to build the first primary school STEM curriculum for younger children.

He said: "There are no STEM materials for primary children at the moment but when you ask people when they made their career decisions, they go a long way back. We asked people on the UK Discs shop floor and they all referred back to primary age experience, whether it was helping their dad fix the car or something else that inspired them.

"It's also important to get girls interested as there are traditionally not many women in engineering. The UK Discs influence in the school is profound as many of our pupils want to be engineers. So much so that a group of our Year 6 girls entered the Primary Engineers competition and won the Level 1 Regional Finals in July."

Rolls-Royce formerly opened the Washington UK Discs facility on the former Dunlop Tyres facility in June last year and is transferring production to the new modern factory from its Pallion site. The 18,000sq m Washington plant has the latest equipment to enable the ground-breaking manufacturing techniques that cuts the time of manufacture a disc in half. The state of the art facility makes use of manufacturing methods developed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Rotherham.