The £22 million JCB Academy has officially opened by Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
The Royal couple visited the facility in Mill Street, Rocester where they met staff, students and supporters who have contributed to the success of The Academy.
The Prince of Wales, accompanied by JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford and JCB Academy Principal Jim Wade was given an insight into the hi-tech resources available to the 170 Year 10 and Sixth Form students. During the visit he was presented with a memory stick which students had designed and manufactured and engraved with the initials ‘HRH’.
He was also given an insight into The JCB Academy’s strong focus on energy efficiency and saw first-hand an Archimedes Screw which has been installed and which generates around 80 per cent of the power for the site. It was a particularly special day for the newly-formed ’15 (The JCB Academy) Squadron Air Training Corps’ who fell in for a Royal inspection by The Prince of Wales.
The Duchess of Cornwall meanwhile took time out to meet community groups linked to The JCB Academy and the building where it is housed. Pupils from Dove First School, Rocester, performed a dance routine for the Royal visitor before she went on to meet Rocester residents who have a connection with the building, a Grade II Arkwright Mill which ceased being a working cotton mill in 1990. As well as Rocester historian Roy Burnett, who is writing a book on the history of the village, The Duchess met Shirley Glover, Gillian Sanbrooke, Eileen Harvey, Elsie Baker and David Burton, all of whom worked in the building when it was a mill.
The Royal couple later unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of The Academy before he was presented with a scale model of an Archimedes Screw by Head Boy Aiden Rogers, 17, of Littleover, Derby and The Duchess of Cornwall was presented with a posy of flowers by Head Girl Holly Broadhurst, 17, of Bradnop Nr Leek.
In a speech at the opening ceremony Sir Anthony Bamford said: "Over 200 years after Arkwright invented the spinning frame, his mill in Rocester is now home to a transformation – a revolution, some might say – in how our young people are educated.
"Our hope is that the engineers and business leaders of the future – that our country so desperately needs to rebalance our economy – will pass through the doors of this historic building. As a nation that seems to have fallen out of love with manufacturing, I look upon The JCB Academy as a rebirth – or at least the beginnings of a rebirth – in technical education.
"We have high hopes for The JCB Academy. With the support of our partners, Rolls Royce, Toyota, Network Rail, Bentley and Bombardier, for example, we anticipate that the unique technical education it provides to 14-19- year-olds will be inspirational for young people, and be of great value to the national economy through the skills it will provide to our manufacturing and engineering companies.
"What started out as the vision of a few people, has now become a reality as a result of the hard work of many people, to whom I am very grateful for their continued support ."
JCB Academy Principal Jim Wade said: "The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall showed an immense interest in every aspect of The JCB Academy as they toured our facility and it was wonderful to host them and give them an insight into our work. Everyone has had a fantastic time."
The JCB Academy is the first school of its kind in the UK for the education of 14 to 19-year-olds with a core focus on engineering and is designed to produce the engineers and business leaders of the future. The first 170 students began their studies in September last year and eventually it will house 540 students from Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Already the intake for September this year is oversubscribed. Like other state schools, the £22 million JCB Academy is funded by the Department for Education, but as main sponsor JCB contributed 10 per cent of the capital and donated the mill in which it is based.
While the idea for The JCB Academy began life in the summer 2006 with a Government feasibility study, it has been created in a Grade II listed Arkwright Mill dating from 1781 and has been equipped with in excess of £1 million worth of modern engineering equipment which will help pupils turn their design ideas into reality. The equipment includes the only plasma cutter – a machine tool commonly used in industry – to be based in a UK school.
The engineering tasks completed by pupils have been set by The JCB Academy’s partners who include JCB, Rolls-Royce, Toyota, Network Rail, Bentley, Bombardier, Rexroth Bosch Group, National Grid, Zytek Automotive, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, IET, Harper Adams University College, The Royal Academy of Engineering and Parker Vansco. They will complete their engineering tasks alongside Maths, English, Science and German GCSEs.