Project case study - Academy9

Transport Scotland engaged with The Knowledge Exchange Partnership to develop ‘Academy9’ – a bespoke educational engagement framework to support engagement with schools during the entire A9 Dualling Programme and beyond. The project’s contractor, Balfour Beatty, worked in partnership with the Academy9 team to develop the model and support new and exciting experiences which utilised access to the live site and focused on construction rather than design and planning.

Academy9 Conference

The success of the Scottish Government’s innovative Academy9 programme was celebrated at a major two-day conference in Aviemore in March 2019. ‘Academy9 – Building a Legacy’ was the first conference to bring together engineering, construction, and education professionals with pupils from schools along the A9 corridor to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education and employment opportunities for future generations and learn from their shared experiences.

Balfour Beatty supported the conference by providing a stand where young people could speak with two of the civil engineering apprentices working on the A9 Dualling: Luncarty to Pass of Birnam project; David Pullam and Liam Davidson.

Balfour Beatty apprentices at their exhibition stand
Balfour Beatty apprentices at the Academy9 Conference, held in Aviemore

David and Liam brought a level with them – a piece of equipment used to make accurate measurements during a variety of construction operations and gave young people the opportunity to try out the equipment for themselves. They were also on hand to answer questions about undertaking an apprenticeship within the construction sector and provide an insight into their own personal journey and experiences to date.  

Around 150 people attended the conference each day taking part in workshops and hearing speakers from across the industry and education sectors.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, meeting some of the young delegates
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, meeting some of the young delegates

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, attended the conference and saw first-hand the collaborative approach to enthuse and inspire Scotland’s young people to become the country’s next generation of engineers, designers, and construction workers.

‘Understanding Risk’ Workshops

The Balfour Beatty team worked closely with Academy9 throughout the project to create innovative and engaging opportunities for local schools.

The first of these was a workshop for local primary school pupils that explained how risk is managed on a construction site. This challenged the students to produce their own risk assessments for everyday activities.

Community Liaison Officer, Duncan Gardner, teaching school children about risk assessments
Community Liaison Officer, Duncan Gardner, supporting Academy9 to deliver risk assessment workshops

Site Classroom

The most ambitious event that the project team delivered was an immersive, interactive site-based experience for local students to learn about the journey of the materials used in concrete from the onsite quarry, through the processing plant and on to the finished structure. It also covered how we test at each step of the way to ensure safety and compliance.

Engineers and young pupils gathered around a desk
The students learned about grading and testing at the on-site UKAS accredited laboratory

Visiting pupils worked their way around three locations: the viewing point at the onsite quarry and concrete plant; the onsite UKAS accredited materials testing laboratory; and the public viewing platform at the Pitlandie Overbridge.

At each location, expert members of the project team explained the importance of each phase of the journey and gave the pupils the opportunity to complete practical activities to enhance their understanding of the complexities of each of the processes.

Pupils on a wooden balcony at the quarry site, with plastic boxes filled with various materials
Pupils learning about materials and voids at the quarry viewing station

Pitlochry Nursery – Loose Parts Donation

Left over materials being reused as loose parts play by nursery children
Building a mini A9

The project donated waste materials to a local nursery in Pitlochry as a ‘Loose Parts’ resource for the children.

The concept of ‘Loose Parts’ play encourages imaginative play and supports child development by giving them the freedom to explore imaginative play using non-traditional materials.

Materials such as pallets, pipe offcuts, old traffic cones and signage which would otherwise end up being sent for recycling can be used as a valuable resource by nurseries and schools for their loose parts play.